Press Release

Female ‘Planet Hunter’ to Reveal Solar System Search Secrets

By SpaceRef Editor
March 5, 2002
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NOTE TO EDITORS: Members of the news media and public are invited to
attend the fourth talk in the 2001-2002 Silicon Valley Astronomy
Lecture Series to be held on Wednesday, March 6, at 7 p.m. PST at
Foothill College’s Smithwick Theater, Los Altos Hills, Calif. More
information is available by calling the series hotline at
650/949-7888.

‘Planets Beyond: The Search For Other Solar Systems’ will be the
topic of a free, non-technical talk at 7 p.m. PST on Wednesday, March
6, at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, Calif. The public is
invited.

Astronomer Dr. Debra Fischer of the University of California,
Berkeley, will discuss the latest research about planetary systems
around other stars. Fischer is part of a team of astronomers, led by
Dr. Geoff Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley and Dr.
Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, who have found
most of the planets around stars other than our sun. Over 80 such
planets are now known.

“The Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series is an important resource
for the community, bringing the latest scientific research in
astrobiology and astronomy to a general audience,” said NASA Ames
Center Director Dr. Henry McDonald. “NASA Ames is proud to be a
partner in these efforts.”

Fischer was instrumental in the discovery of the first system of
planets outside the solar system, around the star Upsilon Andromedae.
Her discovery marked the first time researchers found more than one
planet around the same star, and established that there are other
planetary systems – not just single planets – in the cosmos. Her
discussion will include the possibility that there are not just
Jupiter-sized ‘gas giants’ around other stars, but possibly
Earth-sized planets as well.

Currently, Fischer is actively engaged in the search for other such
systems. She will discuss what the latest discoveries tell us about
the origin and abundance of planets. In addition, she will preview
new plans for finding even smaller planets that are more like the
Earth than our present instruments are capable of sensing. A
question and answer period will follow her talk.

Fischer’s talk comes during March, which has been designated as
National Women’s History Month, to showcase women and their
accomplishments in all fields of endeavor. NASA is conducting
numerous national programs to honor the accomplishments of women in
aerospace and to raise awareness of the importance of education to
future careers. Details about NASA’s women’s outreach initiative are
available at:
http://www.nasa.gov/women/welcomeWHM.html

This is the fourth talk in this year’s Silicon Valley Astronomy
Lecture Series, co-sponsored by NASA Ames, Foothill College’s
Division of Physical Science, Mathematics and Engineering, the
Astronomical Society of the Pacific and the Search for
Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute.

The lecture series is held at Foothill College’s Smithwick Theater in
Los Altos Hills. From interstate 280, exit at El Monte Road and
travel west to the campus. Visitors must purchase a one-day
campus-parking permit for $2. Admission is free and the public is
invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Children
over the age of 13 are welcome. More information is available by
calling the series hotline at 650/949-7888.

SpaceRef staff editor.