Skip to main content

My Lineage

Today I was rewriting a talk I've been giving lately about a peculiar class of planets known as "hot Jupiters": gas giant planets with period of only a few days. In past talks I would say that based on the example of our Solar System---with its giant planets in very wide, long-period orbits---"no one could have expected these hot, close-in Jupiters!"

Well, this isn't entirely true. There was a person who predicted the existence of hot Jupiters well before the first exoplanet was found around a normal star in 1995. I wanted to change my introduction to give proper credit where it is due, but I couldn't remember the intrepid astronomer who made this bold prediction. So I sent an email to Geoff Marcy:

On Apr 28, 2010, at 2:34 PM, John Johnson wrote:


Hi Geoff,

I recall you mentioning an old paper from the 60's in which the author noted that there was no reason not to expect Jupiters in few-day orbits. Can you point me to that paper or remind me of the author?

Thanks

John

------

Geoff wrote back right away with the name, reference, and one other really cool bit of trivia:

Hi John,

In October 1952, the famous Berkeley professor, Otto Struve, published a paper, published in "The Observatory" about "high-precision stellar radial velocity work". At the top of the second page he wrote,

"But there seems to be no compelling reason why the hypothetical stellar planets should not, in some instances, be much closer to their parent star than is the case in the solar system. It would be of interest to test whether there are any such objects." In the next paragraph he explicitly computes the RV signal of a planet with a period of 1.0 day, predicting a reflex velocity of 0.2 km/s!

I've attached a scan of the article below. Note the quote at the top of the second page. Also note that at the end it is signed, "Berkeley Astronomical Department, University of California, 1952 July 24." Otto Struve was the mentor of George Herbig, who in turn was my mentor at UC Santa Cruz.

Thus, you are Otto Struve's great grandchild.

Geoff

------------

How cool is that?!

[Click images to enlarge to more readable versions:]




While I was at Hawaii, I got to "talk shop" with George Herbig frequently, and he gave me a lot of good advice while I was a postdoc there. He is 90 years old, works every single day, and always has data on his computer screen. One of my favorite moments was sitting in the audience with George when a 19-year-old undergraduate student gave a talk about Herbig AeBe stars. He sat there with the slightest of grins on his face while the student talked on with apparently no idea that Dr. Herbig himself was right there in the room!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

An annual note to all the (NSF) haters

It's that time of year again: students have recently been notified about whether they received the prestigious NSF Graduate Student Research Fellowship. Known in the STEM community as "The NSF," the fellowship provides a student with three years of graduate school tuition and stipend, with the latter typically 5-10% above the standard institutional support for first- and second-year students. It's a sweet deal, and a real accellerant for young students to get their research career humming along smoothly because they don't need to restrict themselves to only advisors who have funding: the students fund themselves!
This is also the time of year that many a white dude executes what I call the "academic soccer flop." It looks kinda like this:


It typically sounds like this: "Congrats! Of course it's easier for you to win the NSF because you're, you know, the right demographic." Or worse: "She only won because she's Hispanic."…

Culture: Made Fresh Daily

There are two inspirations for this essay worth noting. The first is an impromptu talk I gave to the board of trustees at Thatcher School while I was visiting in October as an Anacapa Fellow. Spending time on this remarkable campus interacting with the students, faculty and staff helped solidify my notions about how culture can be intentionally created. The second source is Beam Times and Lifetimes by Sharon Tarweek, an in-depth exploration of the culture of particle physics told by an anthropologist embedded at SLAC for two decades. It's a fascinating look at the strange practices and norms that scientists take for granted.
One of the stories that scientists tell themselves, whether implicitly or explicitly, is that science exists outside of and independent of society. A corollary of this notion is that if a scientific subfield has a culture, e.g. the culture of astronomy vs. the culture of chemistry, that culture is essential rather than constructed. That is to say, scientific c…

The Long Con

Hiding in Plain Sight

ESPN has a series of sports documentaries called 30 For 30. One of my favorites is called Broke which is about how professional athletes often make tens of millions of dollars in their careers yet retire with nothing. One of the major "leaks" turns out to be con artists, who lure athletes into elaborate real estate schemes or business ventures. This naturally raises the question: In a tightly-knit social structure that is a sports team, how can con artists operate so effectively and extensively? The answer is quite simple: very few people taken in by con artists ever tell anyone what happened. Thus, con artists can operate out in the open with little fear of consequences because they are shielded by the collective silence of their victims.
I can empathize with this. I've lost money in two different con schemes. One was when I was in college, and I received a phone call that I had won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas. All I needed to do was p…