Our home galaxy contains a hundred billion stars. On average each star hosts at least one planet. Nearly 4000 of these exoplanets have now been discovered.
This website is the story of a little telescope in a suburban backyard that's played a small part in this quest.
Why look for planets around distant stars? After all, we have little chance of ever seeing these planets directly, much less visiting.
Because as far as we know, life arises only on planets, warmed by the light of their suns. So the search for planets is also the search for life. Confirming that life in the vastness of space will change how we view ourselves and our place in the cosmos.
The 2018 Amateur Achievement Award, Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Last November, I had the great honour of receiving the 2018 Amateur Achievement Award from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. This award is now known as the Gordon Myers Award and is to “recognize significant contributions to astronomy or amateur astronomy by those not employed in the field of astronomy in a professional capacity.”
Past recipients have included David Levy and Robert Evans, comet and supernovae discoverers respectively, so it's wonderful recognition.
My wife and I traveled to San Francisco for the awards ceremony and had a great time seeing the sights of Northern California.
Thank you to the Society!
20th April 2017: Discovery of LHS 1140b
A paper announcing the discovery of LHS 1140b, a super-Earth in the habitable zone around a small nearby star, was published in the journal Nature. This planet is now one of the top candidates in the search for signs of an atmosphere, and for life outside our Solar System. I talk about PEST's role in this discovery here.
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By Thiam-Guan 'TG' Tan
Space is big, but an observatory in the backyard brings it into reach.