PHYS 667 100 Earths: Discovering Terrestrial Planets


 As of April 2018, astronomers have discovered over 3,000 planets orbiting stars other than the sun. However, we have not yet discovered "Earth 2.0," a terrestrial planet in an earthlike orbit of a sunlike star. Led by astronomers at Yale University, the 100 Earths Consortium is surveying the nearest 300 sunlike stars in an effort to detect 100 earthlike planets. University of Delaware astronomers are participating in the project by developing methods to distinguish true planet detections from false positives caused by starspots, which can mimic planets. The 100 Earths planet search kicked off in November 2017 with the installation of the EXPRES spectrograph, a planet-finding instrument built specifically for the project, at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ. In this course, you will first use archival data from the long-running HARPS planet search to learn how to discover planets. You will then progress to brand-new data from EXPRES, performing basic validation and searching for star wobbles caused by planets. Finally, you will look for signs of starspots masquerading as planets in the 100 Earths data. The course is heavily project-based and includes guided original research conducted in small groups.

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