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Planetary RadioOctober 14, 2014

Yale’s Debra Fischer and the Ever More Precise Search for New Worlds

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On This Episode
Debra Fischer head shot
Debra Fischer

Eugene Higgins Professor of Astronomy, Yale University

Tyler McCracken head shot
Tyler McCracken

Post-Doctoral Associate, Yale University

It’s terribly hard to find exoplanets that look like our homeworld. The search requires development of astoundingly powerful and precise instruments. That’s the job Debra Fischer and her team have taken on. Emily Lakdawalla reports from JPL on what the Dawn spacecraft has taught us about a world called Vesta. Casey Dreier sits in for Bill Nye with an update on space policy and budget developments in Washington DC. The Little Green Men take over this week’s What’s Up segment with Bruce Betts and Mat Kaplan.

A sample laser frequency comb spectrum


A sample laser frequency comb spectrum
In this laser frequency comb, colorized for illustrative purposes, the solid lines are the star spectrum and the dots are the artificial laser spectrum. The dark gaps in the star spectrum represent different chemical elements in the starlight. Long-term star observations can be calibrated using the artificial spectrum to reveal if the star is wobbling due to the presence of an exoplanet.

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Trivia Contest

This week's prize is a beautiful Chop Shop Beyond Earth letterpress poster.

This week's question:

What is the last full year that there were fewer than five working spacecraft at Mars?

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at or write to us at no later than Tuesday, October 21, at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

Who was the first Canadian to visit the International Space Station? This person has a Masters from the University of Toronto.


The answer will be revealed next week.

Question from the week before:

What was the nickname given to the first pulsar ever discovered?


The first pulsar received the informal name LGM, standing for Little Green Men.

Listen more: FY2015 NASA Budget, asteroid 4 Vesta, Space Policy, asteroids, Planetary Radio, Dawn, extrasolar planets, Exoplanets Laser, Bill Nye

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