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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?




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.



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!


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