In Search of Earth-Like Planets

Royal Astronomical Society publishes research by one of our own.
You can take the scientist out of the research institution, but you can't take the research out of the scientist.

Since leaving a position at CalTech to teach math and astronomy at Thacher, Dr. Jonathan Swift has remained an active researcher, involving his students as he goes. Most recently Dr. Swift was published as a collaborator on an article in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS).

Swift explains, "The article addresses an important issue in the quest to find nearby habitable planets. The most numerous kinds of stars in the Galaxy are small, low-mass stars called 'red dwarfs.' These stars are known to host many planets (Swift et al. 2013Morton & Swift 2014), some of which will be located in the habitable zone of their host star."

This research will be instrumental in guiding the science teams deeply committed to the search for nearby habitable planets to seek out effective technological advancements and develop more intelligent observational strategies. 

While this research did not take place at Thacher's observatory, Swift has hopes of renovating the facility such that it will be equipped to contribute in the future. "A robotic observatory such as the one we are in the process of implementing is the perfect instrument to do the kind of continuous monitoring of star motion and brightness necessary to disentangle the effects of stellar rotation from an orbiting planet. I am hopeful that we will be able to contribute to the discovery of nearby habitable planets in this way in the near future."

This publication has additional significance for Thacher in that this will be the first refereed scientific article published in a reputable journal with The Thacher School as an official author institution. This could mean big things for Thacher's observatory and math/science program. According to Swift, "The statement that is made with this publication (particularly within academia) is that Thacher is officially endorsing and supporting astronomical research that is relevant to the professional community. This is a big step in establishing the Thacher Observatory as a legitimate scientific facility."

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