Press Release

THREE PLANET-HUNTERS EARN NASA’S MICHELSON FELLOWSHIPS

By SpaceRef Editor
October 4, 1999
Filed under


MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109 TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov

Contact: Jane Platt (818) 354-0880

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 4, 1999

THREE PLANET-HUNTERS EARN NASA’S MICHELSON FELLOWSHIPS

High-tech methods to find planets around nearby stars are
the focus of three graduate students selected to receive
Michelson fellowships offered by NASA’s Origins Program and its
Space Interferometry Mission.

The fellowship program is named for Dr. Albert Michelson,
the first American to win a Nobel Prize in physics. He is known
as the father of interferometry, a technique that combines and
processes light from multiple telescopes to obtain a clear image
of distant objects.

Interferometry is an essential part of Origins, which
includes several missions to study the formation of galaxies,
stars, planets and life. The Michelson Fellowship Program is
designed to develop expertise in interferometry.

“Judges on the independent panel had a hard time selecting
the recipients,” said Dr. Rudolf Danner of JPL, organizer of the
fellowship program. “They were very impressed by the caliber of
the applicants and the sophistication of their proposals,
especially since they are beginning graduate students. These
recipients offer the most promise in terms of technology
development and science results they’ll help us achieve.”

Two of the recipients are graduate students at the
University of Arizona, Tucson. Philip Hinz was selected for his
work on building a new type of nulling interferometer. The
instrument will block or “null” the glare from nearby stars so
scientists can observe, in infrared wavelengths, the dust and
giant planets that may orbit those stars. Erin Sabatke was
chosen to work on creating models of large, stretched flat
plastic membranes to collect light from several telescopes placed
on separate spacecraft and flying in formation. He’ll explore
the use of this technique to photograph planets around other
stars.

The third fellowship recipient, Benjamin Lane, is a student
at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA. His work
will advance the technique of using two stars with a narrow angle
separating them to measure relative motion of one with respect to
the other, utilizing a ground-based interferometer. He’ll apply
this technique to search for planets around other stars being
conducted at the Palomar Testbed Interferometer on Palomar
Mountain near San Diego.

The fellowship, to be awarded annually, is offered for three
years of graduate research at the host institution and covers
tuition, a student stipend and a small budget for travel and
other research expenses. The total cost is $90,000 per student
per year. The application deadline for fellowships for the year
2000 is December 15, 1999. Information is available at the
following website:

http://sim.jpl.nasa.gov/michelson

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology,
manages Origins for NASA’s Office of Space Science, Washington,
DC.

SpaceRef staff editor.