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Project Spotlight: Planet Search

Evening landscape featuring stars in the sky

Among the 11 summer research projects being offered for 2020, several are new including Planet Search.

Led by Dr. Edmund Stark, student fellows will utilize satellite images to search for a postulated “planet 9” beyond the Kuiper belt, potentially discovering brown dwarfs, asteroids, or other objects during the search. To facilitate the work, students will receive an introduction to orbital mechanics and image analysis techniques.

The MSU project is a subset of a larger effort to search the galactic plane. During week one, the MSU research fellows were treated to an overview presentation by Dr. Aaron Meisner, core leader of the main project and Hubble Fellow at the NOAO (National Observational Astronomical Observatory), and a more technical presentation by Dan Caselden, leader of the group looking for objects near the galactic plane.

“Brown dwarfs are quite dim and therefore very hard to pick out among brighter stars.  By analyzing infra-red (IR) images from NASA’s WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) satellite, our team is looking at wavelengths which the human eye cannot see, but where brown dwarfs can compete in brightness with stars,” stated Stark.

Stay tuned to the MSU St. Andrews website and Facebook page for future project spotlights.

Programming is made possible through the support of several local organizations including the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, and the Charles J. Strosacker Foundation.

Photo credit: Robert Boda from Harrisville, Michigan