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Physics and Astronomy

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Departmental Colloquium

Who Are the Stars? Where are the Planets?  
Guest Speaker
Todd Henry  
Guest Affiliation
Georgia State University  
Thursday, October 4, 2012 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm  

Since 1994, RECONS (, REsearch Consortium On Nearby Stars) has been discovering and characterizing the Sun's neighbors. Because of their proximity, nearby stars are natural locations to search for other solar systems. The stars provide increased fluxes, larger astrometric perturbations, and higher probabilities for eventual resolution and detailed study of planets than similar stars at larger distances. We have been building a three-dimensional map of stars near the Sun since 1999 using a telescope in the Chilean Andes, and we are now beginning to add planetary companions orbiting the stars. Surprising results include the overwhelming number of red dwarf stars near the Sun ... and the amount of work it will take to search for planets orbiting so many stars. Examination of the nearby stellar sample will reveal the prevalence and structure of solar systems, as well as the balance of Jovian and terrestrial worlds. These are the stars and planets that will ultimately be key in our search for life elsewhere.