Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Exoplanet hunting instrument created in part by UCI astronomer makes first observations
UCI astronomer Paul Robertson recently celebrated “first light” for NEID, a new exoplanet hunting instrument he helped develop. Installed at the 3.5-meter WIYN telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, NEID is an extremely precise radial velocity spectrometer. Its initial observations were of 51 Pegasi, a sunlike star that, in 1995, was found to have a planet in its orbit; the discovery led to the 2019 Nobel Prize in physics for Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz. According to Robertson, NEID detects exoplanets by measuring the small wobble these bodies exert on their host stars; astronomers can determine planetary mass by measuring the size of the periodic Doppler shift in the star’s rotation velocity.