Searching for exoplanets at Palomar Observatory

14 Mar

Just spent a night at Mount Palomar Observatory at the 200 inch (5.1 meter) telescope.  Quite amazing that this mountain, just 2.5 hours from Los Angeles, is the location of the telescope, which used to be the most important telescope for about 4 decades until 1992.

I joined a team lead by Ben Oppenheimer (American Museum of National History) that build a special instrument that can not only detect planets (which is very challenging because it is sitting right next to a very bright star) but also get some information about the properties of the planet through its spectrum (which is even more challenging to get).  The museum made a very nice short video explaining how this works: “Seeing planets like never before”.

Unfortunately, the weather was not very good: it was clear, but the strong winds made the air too turbulent.   So, no new discoveries tonight, but for me a very useful and special experience.