Speaker: Ryan Rubenzahl – Caltech
Topic: Measuring the Speed of Stars More Precisely Than Your Car’s Speedometer
The “doppler method” of detecting planets orbiting other stars requires precise measurements of the speeds of those distant stars. If we can see a star oscillating towards and away from us, we can infer that an unseen planet is tugging on its parent star as it orbits. This method successfully found the first exoplanet, 51 Peg b, a discovery which earned the Nobel Prize this last year. In this public talk we will learn just how hard it is to precisely measure the speeds of stars to the precision of 0.2 mph necessary for finding these Earth-like planets. Next-generation instruments capable of these discoveries may finally be able to answer the question of how common planets like Earth really are in the galaxy.