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April 26, 1999

Astronomer to give public lecture on the search for distant planets

By Tim Stephens

The search for distant planets will be the topic of a public lecture by Steven Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UCSC. Vogt's talk, "Discovering Distant Planets with the World's Largest Telescope," will be Saturday, May 8, at 7:30 p.m. in Lecture Forum 103, Monterey Peninsula College in Monterey. Admission is free. The lecture is sponsored by the Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy (MIRA).

Vogt, an astronomer at UC Observatories/Lick Observatory, will discuss how scientists go about detecting extrasolar planets (planets outside our own solar system). He will focus on the extrasolar planet search program under way at the Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton and at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii. Vogt and his coworkers are currently surveying more than 700 nearby sun-like stars, looking for evidence of planets.

So far, astronomers have found about 20 extrasolar planets. These planets exhibit a surprising range in orbital characteristics, much greater than expected from our own solar system, Vogt said. Vogt will summarize the discoveries to date, including the most recent discovery of a three-planet system around the star Upsilon Andromedae.

Vogt will also discuss the Keck Telescope atop Mauna Kea and what it's like to observe at 14,000 feet using the world's largest telescope.

For more information, contact MIRA at (831) 883-1000 or mira@mira.org.

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