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Tuesday, May 29, 2012



New York, NY (May 31, 2012) - The Carnegie Institution of Washington Department of Terrestrial Magnetism’s staff scientist Paul Butler has focused on improving the measurement precision of stellar Doppler velocities, from 300 meters per second in the 1980s to 1 meter per second in 2010. This technique detects the tiny wobbles stars undergo from the gravitational tugs of orbiting planets. Butler designed and built the iodine absorption cell system at Lick Observatory which resulted in the discovery of five of the first six known extra-solar planets. He and his colleagues found most of the first 200 such planets with this instrument, which has become the de facto standard for precision Doppler studies. It has been adopted by teams at the University of Texas, Harvard, and elsewhere in Europe and Japan. In addition, he has also discovered hundreds of extra-solar planets, including the first planet to transit its host star, the first sub-Saturn mass planets, the first Neptune-mass planet, and the first terrestrial-mass planet. This work has been featured on several front page articles in the New York Times, the Washington Post, as well as a TIME magazine cover story.

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