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!