Russia will begin hunt for extrasolar planets

February 2, 2012 by Tammy Plotner, Universe Today
Pulkovo Observatory 2004 - Credit: Vladimir Ivanov

Located just south of Saint Petersburg on Pulkovo Heights, one of the greatest Russian Observatories of all times – the Pulkovo Observatory – is about to embark on a very noble study. According to the head of the Institute for Space Research, Lev Zelyony, the Soviet telescopes are about to turn their eyes towards deep skies in search of extrasolar planets. “Scientists from the Pulkovo Observatory are planning to use ground-based instruments to study the transit of planets around their parent stars,” Zelyony said at a roundtable meeting at RIA Novosti headquarters in Moscow.

The was absolutely state-of-the-art when it opened for business in 1839 and employed Wilhelm von Struve as its director. It houses some of the largest refractor telescopes in the world, including a 38-cm (15 in.) aperture refractor and a 30-inch (76 cm) refractor – both built by Alvan Clarke and Sons. Fifty years later, they added an astrophysical laboratory, a mechanical workshop and installed one of Europe’s largest lensed telescope, a 76-cm refractor (30 inch). Later additions to the observatory included a Littrow spectrograph and horizontal solar telescope and the facility blossomed into a world leader in stellar spectroscopy, cataloging and more. Modern improvements include astrograph equipment, an interferometer, radio telescope and even an additional 65-cm (26-inch) refractor. The Pulkovo Observatory is up to the task.

The hunt for exoplanets is one of the most popular aspects of modern astronomy and one of the fastest growing fields. In less than 25 years, 755 and an ever-increasing number of have been cataloged… and the research just doesn’t end. The United States Kepler Mission and French CoRoT space telescope have had their share of fun, but using a ground-based telescope could also be a viable source of planet detection, Zelyony said. He also cited the example of the Hungarian Automated Network (HATNet) which so far has discovered 29 exoplanets. By using the transit detection method, the Russian astronomers are eager to begin observations where a small change in magnitude could mean a big change in the way their telescopes perceive the stars.

“It is an interesting research, which should be pursued,” Zelyony said. “It will also help us look at our Solar System from a different perspective.”

Explore further: Is another Earth out there?

More information:

Related Stories

Is another Earth out there?

October 21, 2011

( -- In the search for another Earth, "the stage is only just coming into view" as new mega-telescopes come online, but there is plenty of room for amateurs with less sophisticated telescopes to help in the planet ...

Forest Fire Threatens Whipple Observatory

July 18, 2005

A forest fire sparked by lightning more than a week ago currently is located less than a mile from the Smithsonian's Whipple Observatory. More than 20,000 acres have burned already, and firefighters predict that the fire ...

Four new exoplanets to start off the new year!

January 6, 2012

It’s only a few days into 2012 and already some new exoplanet discoveries have been announced. As 2011 ended, there were a total of 716 confirmed exoplanets and 2,326 planetary candidates, found by both orbiting space ...

A New Way to Find Earths

July 9, 2010

Astronomers have used a completely new technique to find an exotic extrasolar planet. The same approach might even be sensitive enough to find planets as small as the Earth in orbit around distant stars.

NASA Releases Kepler Data on Potential Extrasolar Planets

June 16, 2010

( -- NASA's Kepler Mission has released 43 days of science data on more than 156,000 stars. These stars are being monitored for subtle brightness changes as part of an ongoing search for Earth-like planets outside ...

New planets feature young star and twin Neptunes

June 15, 2011

( -- An international team, including Oxford University scientists, has discovered ten new planets. Amongst them is one orbiting a star perhaps only a few tens of million years old, twin Neptune-sized planets, ...

Recommended for you

NASA missions harvest a passel of 'pumpkin' stars

October 27, 2016

Astronomers using observations from NASA's Kepler and Swift missions have discovered a batch of rapidly spinning stars that produce X-rays at more than 100 times the peak levels ever seen from the sun. The stars, which spin ...

A dead star's ghostly glow

October 27, 2016

The eerie glow of a dead star, which exploded long ago as a supernova, reveals itself in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of the Crab Nebula. But don't be fooled. The ghoulish-looking object still has a pulse. Buried ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.