World-Famous Planet Hunter To Give Aaronson Public Lecture at UA on Nov. 1

Oct. 4, 2002
Artist's concept of a planet around the star 79 Ceti. Marcy, Butler and UC-Santa Cruz astronomer Steve Vogt did not directly photograph the planet -- they indirectly detected it  by its gravitational pull on its star. (Artist: Greg Bacon, STSci)
Artist's concept of a planet around the star 79 Ceti. Marcy, Butler and UC-Santa Cruz astronomer Steve Vogt did not directly photograph the planet -- they indirectly detected it by its gravitational pull on its star. (Artist: Greg Bacon, STSci)

An astronomer who in June co-discovered the first solar system like our own and who in September was in on the discovery of the 100th planet outside our solar system will lecture on "The Prospects for Planets and Life in the Universe" at the University of Arizona Friday, Nov. 1.

The search for extra-solar planets that may harbor life has captured public imagination more than perhaps any other scientific endeavor.

Geoffrey W. Marcy of the University of California Berkeley helps lead the search for solar systems and planets like our own. ARE there more out there? Science is getting a handle on one of the most profound questions humans ask, thanks to astronomers like Marcy.

He will give the 2002 Marc Aaronson Memorial Lecture at 7 p.m. in Room 120 of the Integrated Learning Center on the UA campus. It is free and open to the public.

Teamed with Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Marcy confirmed the detection of the first extra-solar planet, or "exoplanet", in 1996. Since, he and his colleagues have discovered more than 50 planets using a method that Marcy developed. The technique measures with extreme precision how much a star "wobbles" when tugged by its unseen planet.

Last month, Marcy and collaborating British, Australian and American astronomers announced they had detected the 100th known exoplanet, using the Anglo-Australian Telescope in New South Wales, Australia.

Last June, Marcy and Butler announced the first observational evidence that Earth's solar system is not unique. "We have the first sign of a planetary system that has an architecture qualitatively similar to our own solar system," Marcy said at the announcement news conference. "Clearly, finding another solar system like our own begs the question, are there other Earths, Earth-like planets in this system?"

Marcy has enthusiastically shared these discoveries of new and exotic solar systems in interviews with the world's top print and broadcast media, in his university classes, and in public astronomy lectures like the one he'll give at the UA.

The Marc Aaronson Memorial Lectureship and accompanying cash prize was established in 1989 by family, friends and colleagues of the late Marc Aaronson. Marcy was invited to give the 10th Aaronson Lecture because of his long years of patient work that preceded his success in finding planets, said UA astronomer Ed Olszewski. Marcy's work has added to astronomers' understanding of how stars and planets form, and of the origin of our own solar system, Olszewski said.

Aaronson (1950 - 1987) was a gifted astronomer on the UA faculty, where his research focused on some of the most important problems of observational cosmology -- the cosmic distance scale, the age of the universe, the large-scale motion of matter, the distribution of invisible mass in the universe, and the evolution of stars and galaxies. He died in 1987 in an accident while observing at Kitt Peak, Ariz.