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Earth seen from Apollo 17, Credit: NASA

PRVS - Searching for Earth-mass Planets

Finding and characterising the range of conditions in which we find extra-solar planets is a rapidly expanding field that is not only fundamentally interesting for researchers but also engages intense public interest. There are very few areas of science that capture the public imagination more effectively. Research results in this young and dynamic sub-field of Astronomy & Astrophysics are frequently in the news and regularly listed among the top 10 or 100 science discoveries of the year, decade or even millennium. Indeed extra-solar planet research is the nucleus for the new science of astrobiology with its unique mixture of astronomy, atmospheric sciences, biology, chemistry and geology. In the United States National Research Council's most recent decadal survey for astronomy, Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium, one of the highest priorities for future astronomical research should be to "study the formation of stars and their planetary systems, and the birth and evolution of giant and terrestrial planets." Extra-solar planetary research is now and will remain one of the leading intellectual endeavours as it addresses fundamental questions concerning the origins of our cosmic environment and the origins of life. The Precision Radial Velocity Spectrometer (PRVS) is key to answering the International Gemini Observatory’s “Aspen” program question “How common are extra-solar planets, including Earth-like planets?”. Of the over 200 extra-solar planets discovered to date using a variety of techniques, the vast majority have been discovered using Doppler shift studies measuring Precision Radial Velocities (PRV). By operating in the infrared, PRVS will take this technique into a realm that is not accessible using the optical PRV techniques available on 8 to 10 meter telescopes today.

A version of the PRVS presentation given to Gemini Science Committee is available:

PRVS Presentation [PowerPoint/1.25MB]

PRVS Presentation [PDF/1.66MB]

(This new version of the PRVS presentation has been supplied by Joe Jensen at Gemini.)

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