By Alan Bo
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Where were the Jupiters we were all expecting to find in great abundance? Earlier in the year, the January 20 issue of Science had included a paper in which I discussed the chances for detecting the first Jupiter-mass planets around nearby stars. I had argued that, on the basis of computer models I had calculated of how planet-forming disks would heat and cool, it was to be expected that gas giant planets would form at Jupiter-like distances even around stars with lower masses than the Sun. Such “red dwarf” stars are much more common in the Sun’s neighborhood of the Galaxy than are stars like the Sun or more massive than the Sun.
The lab had been given programmatic responsibility for extrasolar planets by NASA headquarters a few years earlier, and it wanted to get the planet detection program moving, not only for the payoff of finding new worlds, but also for the federal funds that were necessary to keep the laboratory running. Within just a few months, Elachi’s team was ready to report its findings to the working group for review and approval. Elachi needed a new acronym for his road map, and he came up with ExNPS, standing for Exploration of Neighboring Planetary Systems.
When the train is traveling away from you, the whistle sounds lower in pitch than when it is at rest. The distinctive change in pitch of the sound of an automobile engine as it passes by is familiar to NASCAR fans, who are dazed by the roar of the Doppler effects created by dozens of stock cars racing by at speeds of 180 mph or more. The change in frequency of the sound produced by the Doppler effect depends on the ratio of the speed of the NASCAR race car to the speed of sound. The sound speed in air is about 750 mph, or 340 meters per second, so a race car can move at about one-quarter of the speed of sound.
Crowded Universe by Alan Bo