New Planets Discovered!

Two new (potentially) water-bearing planets have been discovered 35 light years away!

This makes a total of four known planetary systems (263k jpeg) (backup copy).

An article published by Reuters on 17 January 1996, a bit overzealous with visibility claims, nonetheless tells us:

Using the 120-inch telescope at the University of California's Lick Observatory near San Jose, Geoffrey Marcy and fellow researcher Paul Butler discovered the new planets in the Virgo and Ursa Major constellations. The Berkeley press release further clarified this (with graphics too): The two new planets were found around the stars 70 Virginis, in the constellation Virgo, and 47 Ursae Majoris, in the Big Dipper or Ursa Major. Both stars are visible to the naked eye, but the planets are too small and dim to be seen against the glare of their parent star.

Nevertheless the planets create a telltale wobble in the stars' motion, which the astronomers were able to detect with sensitive equipment mounted on the 120-inch Shane reflector telescope at the University of California's Lick Observatory.

Now the Marcy/Butler SFSU Searching for Extrasolar Planets project pages are available!

For more info about 70 Virginis and 47 Ursae Majoris see:
  • 18 Jan 1996 San Jose Mercury News article
  • SEDS Other Solar Systems
  • U Oregon 51 Pegasi details (similar techniques were used in this latest discovery)
  • A collection of images (local copy)
  • These results were announced at an American Astronomical Society meeting, probably during one of these talks:
  • [89.01] Wobbling Toward Planet Detection
  • [70.04] The Planet around 51 Pegasi

  • The same research team was involved in the confirmation in October 1995 that 51 Pegasi, a star in the Pegasus constellation, was the first star (other than the Sun) known to have a planet orbiting around it. Both that discovery and this one were based on a wobble in the star's orbit. The UC Berkeley press release includes a large chart contrasting these planetary systems (263k jpeg).

    Some references for 51 Pegasi are available:

  • 17 Oct 1995 UC Berkeley press release
  • SETI Editorial: The Promise of Pegasus
  • Somewhat technical details from U Oregon info
  • Planetary Society summary of a Sky and Telescope article.
  • Oct 1995 announcement of the planet at 51 Peg [tambien en Español]
  • Oct 1995 newpaper articles: NY Times/SF Chronicle/Florida Times Union (with pictures), LA Times/Washington Post, SF Chronicle
  • Oct 1995 University newspapers: Golden Gater, 25 Oct 1995 UC Berkeley Campus News
  • Picture of 51 Pegasi

  • Mark Maimone - - See my home page for more space-related info
    (last updated Sun Mar 17 02:39 EST 1996)