Discovering New Planets – Inaugural Lecture at Keele



Posted on 22 March 2010

Professor Coel Hellier, Astrophysics at Keele University, will give the last lecture in the University's programme of Inaugural Lectures for 2009/2010, on Tuesday, 30 March. The title of the lecture is “Discovering new planets".

In this lecture Professor Hellier describes how this was done and what it tells us about how planetary systems form and evolve. How many stars have planets around them? Is our Solar System typical? Might other planetary systems harbour life?

In 2005 Keele was involved in building a camera array in South Africa to find planets that transit across the face of their star. This has turned into the world’s most successful transit search programme, finding more than 20 planets, including the largest known planet, the shortest-period known planet, the first planet in a retrograde orbit and the planet with the strongest tidal interaction.
Coel Hellier joined Keele as a Lecturer in 1994, having trained at Oxford as a Physicist, and having developed his astronomy through a PhD and Post-Doctoral Fellowship at University College London, and then a prestigious Hubble Fellowship at the University of Texas.  His early research focused on using X-ray data to study accretion processes, such as material transferring from one star to another.
He is now leading a team that is searching for planets around other stars, having built a specialist array of optical cameras to search for tiny dips in a star's light when a planet transits in front of it.  With colleagues primarily from St. Andrews and Queen's University (Belfast), the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) project has been the world's most successful transit-search team, having discovered more than 20 exo-planets. Their discoveries have been highly cited, and Time magazine and CNN judged the WASP exo-planets to be the sixth most important scientific discovery in the world in 2007.

Keele's programme of Inaugural Lectures are given by newly established professors within the University and aim to give an illuminating account of the speaker's own subject specialism. The lectures, which start at 6 pm in the Westminster Theatre, are chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Janet Finch. Admission is free; no ticket is required.

For further information contact: Chris Stone, Press Office. Tel: 01782 733375.