Planet Hunting – With Guest Dr. Eric Mamajek (Part 2)

February 18, 2013

John P. Millis, Ph.D. for – Your Universe Online

While mankind has searched the heavens for thousands of years, it has only been in recent decades that we have begun to truly grasp the nature of planets and how they form. Most recently, this work has been advanced by experiments like NASA’s Kepler mission, which has already revealed a plethora of planets within our own galactic neighborhood. … And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

But beyond the mere discovery of a host of new planets and planet candidates, these experiments have also shed light on several unexpected characteristics of these new worlds – characteristics that are forcing astronomers to question some of their most basic assumptions about the evolution of planetary systems.

In the second part of our three-part series on planets, we’ll take a look at the relatively new field of planet hunting. Joining us again is Dr. Eric Mamajek, Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at University of Rochester. In this podcast, Dr. Mamajek will discuss the latest techniques used by astronomers to identify and characterize planetary systems as well as some of the surprises that these new research methods have turned up. He’ll also share his thoughts on the future of planet hunting and what we can expect from this exciting new field in the coming years.

Listen to parts one and three of the interview, “How Planets Form” and “The Search For Alien Life.”


Eric Mamajek is Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at University of Rochester. He received his B.S. in Astronomy and Astrophysics, and Physics, from Pennsylvania State University in 1998 before completing a M.Sc. in Physics from The University of New South Wales/ADFA in 2000, and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from The University of Arizona in 2004. After his Ph.D. he was a Clay Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and he joined the faculty at University of Rochester in 2008.

His primary research interests are understanding the formation and evolution of stars, planetary systems, substellar objects, and circumstellar disks in our Galactic neighborhood. He has coauthored over 80 refereed astrophysics journal papers, and his research has been supported by awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In 2012, his research group announced the discovery of the first ring system outside the solar system which transits a young Sun-like star, and in 2010 he and his collaborators discovered a faint stellar companion to the famous star Alcor in the Big Dipper.