BS in Physics
Extrasolar planet detection is an ongoing and growing field of scientific research. To date, there are over 400 planet candidates discovered by various means of detection. Currently, astronomers taking observations at Lick Observatory are searching for potential extrasolar planets around K-giant stars. The project was originally developed to monitor stars to be used in the astrometric grid for NASA’s Space Interferometry Mission (SIM). While using the radial velocity method to test if the astrometric centers of K-giants were stable, astronomers came to the realization that the same process could be used for extrasolar planet detection. Of the 373 K-giants being observed at Lick Observatory, using the Coude Auxiliary Telescope (CAT), several stars show promising signs of extrasolar planets with masses larger than Jupiter. Others seem to reveal a pattern in their data, related to planetary motion, but they need more radial velocity data to confirm the existence of a planet. The SIM project originally ruled out binary stars from being useable grid star, due to their large astrometric jitter; nevertheless several have been found to lie among the observed K-giants.