By Alan Bo
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Extra info for Crowded Universe
Once they finished that marathon observing run and analyzed their data one more time, they realized that they had bagged a planet. But just to be sure, they waited two more months until September and took even more data on 51 Pegasi. Then Mayor and Queloz quickly wrote a short paper and submitted it to the journal Nature. While their 51 Pegasi discovery paper was still in the process of being scrutinized for publication, Mayor decided to break the press embargo imposed by Nature and announce their finding at the Florence meeting.
Mayor had a list of 142 stars similar to the Sun that did not seem to be members of binary star systems, and he intended to see whether he could find any very-low-mass companions to these stars, and perhaps a gas giant planet or two. Mayor began the search in April 1994 on the 77-inch telescope. In September 1994, Mayor and his junior colleague, Didier Queloz, began observing a solar-type star called 51 Pegasi in the constellation Pegasus. By January 1995, they had taken enough data on 51 Pegasi to realize that something was making the star bounce around, but by then Earth’s orbital motion around the Sun had put the constellation in the direction of the Sun, making it difficult to observe.
Van de Kamp passed away in 1995, before the announcement of 51 Pegasi’s planet, but he continued to believe that Barnard’s star had a planet, even if no one else did. Astrometric planet detection acquired a reputation as a dubious enterprise, rather like the search for life on Mars, which was associated in astronomers’ minds with the claims for Martian “canals” that must be signs of an intelligent civilization on our neighboring planet. Proper astronomers did not stoop to looking for planets or searching for life in the Solar System.
Crowded Universe by Alan Bo