Alex Wolszczan finds a red giant with a planet

In 2007, a Penn State astronomer led a team that discovered an extrasolar planet around a red giant star. The star is HD 17092, located 300 light-years away in the direction of the constellation Perseus. Earth & Sky interviewed this astronomer.

Astronomers have found a planet near a red giant star about 300 light-years from Earth.

Alex Wolszczan, an astronomer at Penn State University, led the science team that made the discovery. Wolszczan told EarthSky that his planet-hunting strategy was to look for planets around evolved stars, similar to what our own sun will become in a few billion years.

Red giants cool as they age. Their light becomes easier for astronomers to analyze than when the stars were hotter and younger.

Alex Wolszczan: So, we decided to do this and three years later, just about now we’ve got our first discovery and there are more coming. It’s actually quite exciting.

Back in 1992, Wolszczan discovered the first planets ever found outside our solar system. And since then, over 250 extra-solar planets have been found. Wolszczan said that it’s possible that planets might be found orbiting all sorts of exotic objects in the universe – red giants, red dwarfs, white dwarfs, perhaps even black holes.

Alex Wolszczan: Even more exciting is, of course, the fact that at the end of all of this, what hopefully awaits us is the discovery of life elsewhere. This is really the big prize.

Our thanks today to Research Corporation, America’s first foundation for science advancement.

Our thanks to:
Alex Wolszczan
Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Penn State University

Jorge Salazar