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 (spotlight.ucla.edu) Prof. Marcy
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Geoffrey Marcy, Astronomer

  • By Heather Goyette
  • Published Apr 1, 2002 8:00 AM

Geoffrey Marcy doesn't have his head in the clouds. Since graduating from UCLA summa cum laude in 1976, with a double major in physics and astronomy, the scientist and his team have discovered 45 of the 78 extrasolar planets currently known in the universe.

"The discovery of other planets was something I had pondered when I was a kid," says Marcy. "As a researcher, I wanted to tackle a question that many children ask: 'Are there planets around the stars I see at night?' "

In some cases, he is finding, the answer is "yes."

In March 1999, Marcy discovered three giant planets orbiting the sun-sized star Upsilon Andromedae in the Andromeda constellation. This marked the first discovery of a solar system with multiple planets.

While the planets themselves most likely could not support life, their existence implies that multi-planetary systems are not uncommon, increasing the chances of life outside our solar system.

However, Marcy leaves the UFO sightings to others; his is an unquenchable search for knowledge, not aliens. He wrote in a Scientific American article, "We can only barely imagine what the next generation will see in our reconnaissance of the galactic neighborhood. Human destiny lies in exploring the galaxy and finding our roots, biologically and chemically, out among the stars."

Marcy's work has been recognized with a multitude of distinguished awards, including the UCLA Alumni Professional Achievement Award. He has published numerous articles, and was named one of Newsweek's 100 Americans for the Next Century. He has been covered by the New York Times and has appeared on television, newsmagazines and science shows, from ABC's Nightline and CBS's Nightly News, to NBC's Today Show, to PBS's NOVA and BBC Television.

Currently a professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley, Marcy has held positions at San Francisco State University and the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Imparting his knowledge of astrophysics, Marcy is teaching a new crop of scientists to comb the skies for hidden planets.