51-Peg, a discovery triggered by Marseille’s instrumentation

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Our research group in Marseille has quite an interesting legacy in the field of exoplanets. Interestingly, this part of the story is well known by the exoplanets community, as it has been presented by Stéphane Udry in his historical talk at the SOPHIE’s 10-years celebration.

51 Peg, the very first exoplanet discovered in 1995, has been detected with the ELODIE echelle sepctrograph (Baranne et al 1996) dedicated to radial velocity measurements at the Observatoire de Haute Provence in the south of France. The ELODIE spectrograph has been designed and built at the former Observatoire de Marseille by André Baranne and his group of research in optics and instrumentation.

Together with Prs Philippe Véron and Michel Mayor, the triumvirat proposed this radial velocity instrument to the french community, which judged it absolutely useless and did not fund it at the time (!). At that time, Véron did not follow the “experts” recommendation and went ahead.

The story then told that it was not that useless….

This group is now the one I am part of (R&D group) at LAM (Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille). A legacy we will try to honor in the forthcoming years…

Baranne, A., Queloz, D., Mayor, M., Adrianzyk, G., Knispel, G., Kohler, D., “ELODIE: a spectrograph for accurate radial velocity measurements”, Astronomy and Astrophysics Supplement, v.119, p.373-390

 baranneBaranne, Mayor and Queloz at the Observatoire de Haute Provence in 1996