How This Guy Discovered Four New Planets Without a Telescope

Illustration for article titled How This Guy Discovered Four New Planets Without a Telescope

Peter Jalowiczor is a gas worker from South Yorkshire, England. He's also the discoverer of four giant exoplanets, according to the University of California's Lick-Carnegie Planet Search Team. But he's not an astronomer and he doesn't even have a telescope.


He worked for three years on the discovery, analyzing data made public by the university using his two home computers, spending hundreds of hours of his spare time in the task. Jalowiczor, who has two science degrees but no formal astronomy training, used a process called doppler spectroscopy or radial velocity measurement. As he explains it:

I look for faint changes in stars' behaviors that can only be caused by a planet or planets orbiting about them. Stars are incredibly far away and no telescope yet built can directly see their discs, let alone any planets going around them.

Astronomers therefore have to devise other indirect techniques of detection. If a planet orbits a star it causes a tiny wobble in the star's motion and this wobble reveals itself in the star's light. Special software works out the properties about the planet's orbit and precise measurements of the star taken over many years enable scientists to build up profiles of systems as planets are gradually revealed.

According to the Lick-Carnegie Planet Search Team, the gas worker is the co-discoverer of gas planets HD31253b, HD218566b, HD177830c and HD99492c, which is the closest of the four, 58 light years away. [The Star via Mail Online]



*raises arm and points off into the night sky*

Hey look, I discovered a planet too!

Seriously, why does anyone care about planets we cannot even see, and are millions of lightyears away?

No one on earth is going to be able to set foot on the planets for at least another few hundred years.