UF astronomers expect to find 150 new planets

(U-WIRE) GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida team’s research could soon double the number of known planets outside our solar system.

The research project was made part of a larger program at the American Astronomical Society’s annual meeting on Tuesday, according to a UF news release.

The project is funded by UF, the National Science Foundation and NASA, Research is set to start in September and finish in 2014.

Jian Ge, a UF astronomy professor and the project’s leader, said he is not satisfied with the amount of information currently available about the star-studded sky.

Ge said his team expects to discover more than 150 planets outside the solar system and learn how they form and evolve.

“It’s just part of human nature to find understanding of the planetary system,” he said.

But this hunt will take more than an average telescope.

The UF team members are building a $2.5 million tool to scan about 11,000 stars at a rate three times faster than any other telescope in the world, according to the release.

Ge said the team will be measuring the gravitational pull of a planet on a star and sizing up 120 stars at a time.

The tool will be added on to the telescope at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, which is used in the larger research program UF recently joined.

He said the research collected from the project, which is called MARVELS, or Multi-object Apache Point Observatory Radial Velocity Exoplanet Large-area Survey, would set milestones in astronomy.

It’s important for future projects, such as searches for Earth-like planets, because it will allow astronomers to narrow their explorations from millions of stars down to those most likely to give favorable results, the release states.

“We’re the only group in the world leading this kind of thing,” Ge said. “It’s very important to get to the next level.”

Leave a Reply

Back To Top