UA MacArthur Fellow Brings Alien Worlds to Your Backyard - The Explorer: University Of Arizona

UA MacArthur Fellow Brings Alien Worlds to Your Backyard

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 3:07 pm

University of Arizona assistant professor Olivier Guyon has made it his mission to enable amateur astronomers and school children to discover alien planets far outside our solar system. For his breakthroughs in telescope optics and his vision of bringing cutting-edge science to the public, he was awarded the $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship.

University of Arizona astronomer and optical scientist Olivier Guyon has been named a 2012 MacArthur Fellow for his contributions and creative potential toward the study of planets outside the solar system and for his vision of involving the public in their discovery.

“When I was 10 years old, someone in my family gave me a book about astronomy, and I started looking at the sky and reading about it,” Guyon said in a recorded video statement. “Then I got a bigger telescope, and it never stopped.”

Guyon, who obtained his doctorate in physics at the Université Paris VI in France in 2002, has been an assistant professor of astronomy and optical sciences at the UA since 2008. He has a joint appointment in the College of Science’s department of astronomy and the College of Optical Sciences.

The young researcher develops optics for astronomy, specifically techniques to take images of exoplanets, planets outside our solar system.

“Every star you see at night has planets, and they’re called exoplanets,” Guyon said. “They’re extremely important because if there is life elsewhere in the universe, it is probably on a planet that is similar to the Earth around another star.”

He said scientists are looking at exoplanets in the hope of finding life outside the solar system. However, unlike stars, which are bright and relatively easy to observe, exoplanets hide in the overwhelming glare of their parent stars, making them invisible to conventional telescopes.

“If you try to point a normal telescope at star and try to take an image of the planet next to the star, it won’t work because the glare of the star is going to prevent us from actually seeing the planet, which is much, much fainter than the star,” Guyon explained. “Once we have identified such planets, PIAA (Phase-Induced Amplitude Apodization) allows us to study them. We can look at their colors. Do they have oceans? Atmosphere? Land? Clouds?”

Guyon develops optical techniques that massage the light of the telescope in a way that eliminates the glare and makes the planet emerge from the darkness.

One such technique is Phase-Induced Amplitude Apodization, or PIAA. In the process, he has figured out ways to get away with mirrors half the size of what scientists deemed necessary to accomplish this feat, making the search for alien worlds cheaper, less equipment-intensive and therefore more accessible. In doing so, Guyon hopes to involve the public and amateur astronomers in the search and discovery of exoplanets.

“In the last two years, I have been working on how to make this technique affordable and easy to use for amateur astronomers, schools and the general public to actually implement in their backyard,” he said.

While Guyon currently is working to optimize the performance of ground-based PIAA instruments, the foundation pointed out that the PIAA design significantly reduces the engineering and cost obstacles to deploying a planet-locating telescope in low-Earth orbit.

The fellowship also rewards Guyon’s contributions to other aspects of instrumentation, such as adaptive optics and low-cost, lightweight telescopes for amateurs.

“In all aspects of his work, from theoretical calculations to laboratory fabrication, Guyon relentlessly tests and pushes boundaries to construct instruments that are key to one of the great scientific adventures of our time – searching the galaxy for other planets like our own,” according to the nomination announcement.

Jim Wyant, former dean of the College of Optical Sciences, said: “When I met Olivier four or five years ago, I was extremely impressed. He's so clever, so full of ideas – there's no question that he deserves this.”

# # #

LINKS:

Further information and high-resolution photos can be obtained on the Mac Arthur Fellowship Website: http://www.macfound.org/fellows/866 .

MacArthur Fellowship Program: http://www.macfound.org

UA Department of Astronomy: https://www.as.arizona.edu

UA College of Optical Sciences: http://fp.optics.arizona.edu

© 2014 The Explorer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

More about

More about

Welcome to the discussion.

Oro Valley Audiology

Oro Valley AudiologyAddress: 2542 E Vistoso Commerce Loop Rd, Oro Valley, AZ 85755Phone:(520) ...

Wednesday 10/15/2014

What's Up UA? - Close Encounter 'One in a Million'

Monday 10/13/2014

What's Up UA? - Austin Hill: The Comeback Kid

Monday 10/06/2014

What's Up UA? - Health, Wellness Practices Highlighted by Chinese Culture Festival

Thursday 10/02/2014

What's Up UA? - Ready for a Super-Fast Internet? UA Scientists Are Fast at Work on It

Tuesday 09/30/2014

What's Up UA? - Using the Force: UA Police Officer Completes NASA Project

Monday 09/29/2014

What's Up UA? - How New Social Movements Take Root

Friday 09/26/2014

What's Up UA? - PBS 'NewsHour' to Feature Inspirational UA Student

Wednesday 09/24/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Paves Way to Redefine STEM Education

Monday 09/22/2014

What's Up UA? - Wildcats Rally, Hail Mary TD Defeats Cal, 49-45

Thursday 09/18/2014

What's Up UA? - When Job Loss Equals Weight Gain

Monday 09/15/2014

What's Up UA? - Don’t Underestimate Your Mind’s Eye

Thursday 09/11/2014

What's Up UA? - 'What I Wish I Had Known as a Freshman'

Tuesday 09/09/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Undergraduate Researchers Take to the Radio

Thursday 09/04/2014

What's Up UA? - Send Your Tweet – and Your Name – to an Asteroid

Tuesday 09/02/2014

What's Up UA? - Brown Foundations' $2.5 Million Kicks Off Catapult Corp

Thursday 08/28/2014

What's Up UA? - New Veterinary Degree Program Made Possible by $9M Gift is Critical for State

Monday 08/25/2014

What's Up UA? - Laser 'Lightning Rods' Channel Electricity Through Thin Air

Thursday 08/21/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Fall Enrollment Sets Record for Diversity, Number of Freshmen

Tuesday 08/19/2014

What's Up UA? - Remarkable Résumé: UA Student Journalist's Career Includes CNN, NYT Phoenix

Friday 08/15/2014

What's Up UA? - Through Innovative Partnership, 'Hot Shot' Team Tackles Yuma Produce Perils

Wednesday 08/13/2014

What's Up UA? - The UA Named a Top College by The Princeton Review

Monday 08/11/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Researchers Study Increasing Lifespan and Immune Function What's Up UA? - UA Undergrads Conducting Microgravity Research Aboard NASA's G-Force One

Monday 06/09/2014

What's up UA? - UA to Host U.S. and Mexico Officials Exploring Collaborations in Education, Innovation, Research

Thursday 06/05/2014

What's Up UA? - New Wilderness Medicine Class Hones Patient Care Skills in Rugged Conditions

Tuesday 06/03/2014

Track Cats Send Eight Athletes to TrackTown USA

Monday 06/02/2014

What's Up UA? - Bringing a Spacecraft Back From the Dead

Friday 05/30/2014

What's Up UA? - Heart Attack Patient Defies Odds with Tailored Surgical Treatment at UA Medical Center

Thursday 05/29/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Marketing Students Win National AT&T Competition

Tuesday 05/27/2014

What's Up UA? - Scientists Discover Genetic Basis of Pest Resistance to Biotech Cotton

Friday 05/23/2014

What's up UA? - Four UA Students Picked for Pat Tillman Foundation Scholarships

Wednesday 05/21/2014

What's Up UA? - Scientists Discover Genetic Basis of Pest Resistance to Biotech Cotton

Monday 05/19/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Tunnels Get Carbon Fiber Makeover

Thursday 05/15/2014

What's Up UA? - Earning a UA Degree, in a Grandfather’s Memory

Tuesday 05/13/2014

What's Up UA? - UA's Phoenix Cancer Center is 'Topped Off,' Joins Award-Winning Medical School Building

Thursday 05/08/2014

What's Up UA? - University of Arizona to Offer Nation’s First Bachelor of Arts in Law

Monday 05/05/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Combating Health Disparities to Build Healthier Communities

Wednesday 04/30/2014

What's Up UA? - Scientists at the UA Make Critical End-Stage Liver Disease Discovery

Friday 04/25/2014

What's Up UA? - A Century-Long Track Record of Serving Arizona and Benefiting the State's Economy

Wednesday 04/23/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Opens Nation’s First Resource Center for Student Vets Studying Health Care UA Wildcat Instant Decision Days at PCC campuses April 29-May 2

Monday 04/21/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Scientists to Begin Construction on NASA Spacecraft that will Visit Asteroid in 2018

Thursday 04/10/2014

What's Up UA? - Spring Fling Celebrates 40th Anniversary With Return to UA Mall

Monday 04/07/2014

Mauga’s Walkoff Sweeps Stanford

Thursday 04/03/2014

What's Up UA? - 4-H Programs Bring Enrichment and Learning to Thousands in Arizona

Monday 03/31/2014

What's Up UA? - The Viruses You Don't Know About (Yet)

Tuesday 03/25/2014

What's Up UA? - Twice Torn Apart: A UA Alumna's Road to the Paralympic Games

Tuesday 03/18/2014

What's Up UA? - Tucson Village Farm Honored as Model Program for the Nation

Friday 03/14/2014

What's Up UA? - Several UA Graduate Programs Reach New Heights

Tuesday 03/11/2014

What's Up UA? - Olympics Interns Share Sochi Experiences
Spacer4px

Follow us on Facebook

Online poll

Loading…
Loading…