Twenty years ago, planets around other stars were the stuff of science fiction; yet today that fiction is a reality and we know of over 1000 so-called exoplanets, with thousands of further possible ones identified. In this talk Professor Norton will tell a little of the history of this remarkable advance, and show just how exoplanets are discovered, using a range of models and demonstrations. Some highlights from recent discoveries will be discussed, including those from the SuperWASP project which staff at the OU are involved with, and the prospects for future discoveries of habitable Earth-like planets will be outlined.
Paul Ruffle (1951-2013) was an astrophysicist at the University of Manchester, an OU tutor, Café Scientifique organiser, honorary auditor of the RAS, and a founder member of Fusion, the OU Physics & Astronomy Society. He was also a great populariser of astronomy, through his many public lectures and appearances on local radio. After a successful career as a graphic designer, Paul completed an Open University physics degree and then a PhD at Manchester University, followed by a period at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in West Virginia, USA and postdoctoral research in Manchester.
Andrew Norton is Professor of Astrophysics Education at the Open University and Vice-President of the Royal Astronomical Society. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and Director of the OU's George Abell Observatory. His research interests include: wide field surveys for variable stars and transiting exoplanets; observation and modelling of Magnetic Cataclysmic Variables; and observation and modelling of High Mass X-ray Binaries.