planet hunters Geoffrey Marcy and Paul Butler awarded prestigious
Draper Medal from the National Academy of Sciences
Robert Sanders, Media Relations and Tina McDowell, Carnegie
Institution of Washington
- The National Academy of Sciences announced yesterday (Wednesday,
Jan. 10) that the world's most successful planet hunters,
Geoffrey Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley,
and Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington,
will be awarded the prestigious Henry Draper Medal on April
30 during the academy's 138th meeting.
awards the Draper Medal every four years to individuals who
have made a significant contribution to astronomical physics.
It was established through the Draper Fund and first was awarded
and Marcy were cited by the academy "for their pioneering
investigations of planets orbiting other stars via high-precision
radial velocities." They will join the ranks of other noted
astronomers including George Ellery Hale, Arthur Eddington,
Harlow Shapley, Horace Babcock, and the team of Arno Penzias
and Robert Wilson.
ago, finding planets orbiting other stars was the stuff of
science fiction. But that has changed. Since 1995, Marcy,
Butler and their colleagues have discovered 38 of the 53 known
extrasolar planets. Their joint finds include the only planet
thus far observed to transit a host star, two sub-Saturn mass
planets and, announced earlier this week, a multiple-planet
system that may alter our current definition of the term planet.
detectives are leaders of a team engaged in a multi-year research
project to look for planets around 1,100 stars that are within
300 light-years of Earth. Some of the planets they have thus
far detected have challenged existing theories on planetary
a professor of astronomy in the College of Letters & Science
at UC Berkeley, and Butler together conceived a novel technique
for measuring stellar Doppler velocities, the telltale wobbles
indicating an orbiting planet. From these measurements, they
were able to deduce the mass and orbit of companion planets.
After some eight years of hard work, they announced their
first planet discoveries in 1995, shortly after a Swiss team
reported the first tentative detection of an extrasolar planet.
Since then, Marcy, Butler and their colleagues have continued
observations at the Lick Observatory at UC Santa Cruz and
have extended their planet search to the more sensitive Keck
telescopes operated in Hawaii by a consortium of the University
of California and Caltech. To view stars in the Southern Hemisphere,
the team uses the Anglo-Australian Observatories and will
use Carnegie's Magellan telescopes in Chile as they become
work focuses on improving the precision of Doppler velocity
measurements. He designed and built the iodine absorption
cell system at Lick, resulting in the discovery of six of
the first eight extrasolar planets. This instrument is now
the standard for precision Doppler studies.
the team hopes to have completed a "planetary census" of nearby
stars. They will be able to tell what percentage of stars
have planets, how many planetary systems are like our solar
system, and how many types of planetary systems exist.
is supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration,
the National Science Foundation and Sun Microsystems. Other
team members include post-doctoral researcher Debra Fischer
of UC Berkeley and astronomy professor Steve Vogt of UC Santa
Institution, founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1902, is a private,
nonprofit organization engaged in basic research and advanced
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Academy of Sciences
of Letters & Science
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