Presentation: Beyond Our Solar System: The Search for Extrasolar Planetary Systems
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On October 11,2002 Dr. William Cochran's team of astronomers with The University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory Planet Search project announced the discovery of the first planet orbiting a star in a close-in binary star system. This planet orbits the larger star of the binary system Gamma Cephei, about 45 light-years away in the constellation Cepheus. The McDonald Observatory Planet Search began in 1987. The team uses the 2.7-meter Harlan J. Smith Telescope to monitor about 180 nearby Sun-like stars for Jupiter-sized planets. In addition to Gamma Cephei, the team has found planets orbiting the stars 16 Cygni B and Epsilon Eridani. This lecture will discuss the methods used by Dr. Cochran’s team, as well as the formation and evolution of planetary systems.