Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm

Modern science began with Copernicus speculating that the Earth is a planet and that all the planets orbit the Sun. Bruno followed up by speculating that the Sun is a star, that other stars have planets, and other planets are inhabited by life. For this and other heresies, Bruno was burned at the stake in a public square in Rome in 1600. Astronomy and extrasolar planets were a really hot field at the time.

Over the past 20 years more than a thousand extrasolar planets have been found, first from ground-based precision Doppler surveys, and more recently by the Kepler space mission. We have concentrated on building precise Doppler systems to survey the nearest stars. Our systems at Lick, Keck, AAT, and Magellan have found hundreds of planets, including five of the first six extrasolar planets, the first saturn-mass planet, the first neptune-mass planet, the first terrestrial mass planet, and the first multiple planet systems.

We are focused on surveying the nearest stars with new custom built spectrometers designed to achieve the highest possible Doppler precision: The Planet Finder Spectrometer on the 6.5-m Magellan Telescope, and the Levy spectrometer on the 2.4-m Automated Planet Finding Telescope. These spectrometer will lead to the discovery of many terrestrial mass and potentially habitable planets over the next decade. Within a generation new technology giant telescopes and adaptive optics systems will be able to directly image these systems and begin the detailed search for life.

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