Planet hunter Marcy is 'California Scientist of the Year'


Astronomer Geoffrey Marcy.

By Diane Ainsworth, Public Affairs

14 February 2001 | Astronomer Geoffrey Marcy, director of Berkeley's Center for Integrative Planetary Science, has been named California Scientist of the Year by the Los Angeles-based California Science Center, recognizing his work in discovering new planets. Last month he won the the prestigious Henry Draper Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.

Marcy, a professor in the College of Letters and Science, uses extremely powerful telescopes and a special measuring technique to detect planets outside the solar system. In the last several years, his efforts have led to the discovery of 55 extrasolar planets, 38 of which were discovered by his astronomy team alone.

"Marcy is the pioneer of planet hunting, along with his colleague, Paul Butler of Carnegie Institution, and has discovered more extrasolar planets than any other group in the world," said Professor Christopher McKee, of the physics department. "That work is shedding new light on the origin of our own solar system."

Marcy's planet discoveries have had a dramatic impact on the field of astronomy, astrophysics and the search for life in the universe. Extrasolar planet detection has sparked a new interest in planetary formation and led to an emphasis on studying the geophysics and chemistry of planets. Detection of new planets outside of the solar system also has fueled renewed interest in the search for extraterrestrial life.

"Professor Marcy well deserves to be named California Scientist of the Year," added Frank Drake, father of the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life in the universe and president of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. "His name will appear in all future histories of astronomy."

Marcy joins the ranks of 40 California scientists in the fields of chemistry, physics, medicine, biology and astronomy who have received the California Scientist of the Year award. The National Academy of Science's Draper Award is given every four years to individuals who have made a significant contribution to astronomical physics.



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