FINDS Exo-Earths Starts Up: Testing the Prototype
Posted by Debra Fischer
2009/10/30 12:00 CDT
Thanks to Planetary Society members, planet hunters Debra Fischer and Julien Spronck (Yale) and Geoff Marcy (UC Berkeley) have been able to start moving forward with the Fiberoptic Improved Next-generation Doppler Search for Exo-Earths (FINDS Exo-Earths) project that will improve the ability to find exoplanets from Lick Observatory and that will pave the way for a potential follow-on system that may be able to find Earth-sized exoplanets. Here, Debra reports on recent progress: -- Ed.
The prototype that Julien constructed in the lab was taken to Lick Observatory, and we had our first-light run with the fiber in July. Unfortunately (and uncharacteristic for summer) the weather was not great -- clouds and humidity limited the number of observations. However, we were able to obtain a few spectra through the fiber and confirmed the remarkable stability that motivated the project.
We returned to the Observatory for scheduled time in August 2009, and, as it happens, a crew was there filming a National Geographic special on exoplanets. So folks may see the fiber featured when this documentary airs!