Planet Hunter: Geoff Marcy and the Search for Other Earths
“Is the Earth a one in a thousand shot, a one in a million shot?” Dr. Marcy wonders as he adjusts the controls on one of the computers in the telescope control room at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii. “Surely in this huge universe there are other planets that have conditions ripe for life. But are there ten in the Milky Way galaxy? A billion? Or is there only one, our Earth? And if there’s a planet like Earth, how likely is it to have intelligent life?”
These are the kinds of questions that motivated Dr. Marcy to become a planet hunter. Using a technique called Doppler spectroscopy, he and his former research partner, Dr. Paul Butler, became planet-hunting celebrities when they detected their first two extrasolar planets in 1995. With the launch of NASA’s Kepler space telescope in March 2009 and future space-born instruments, Marcy’s dream of finding Earth-like planets may come true.
Marcy dreams of finding a rocky, Earth-like planet, where there might be life. Courtesy/NASA/JPL-Caltech