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Jian Ge, Professor of Astronomy

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Professor Jian Ge and the W.M. Keck Exoplanet TrackerProfessor Jian Ge and the W.M. Keck Exoplanet Tracker (Courtesy Gainesville Sun)

If there is life on distance planets in our universe, Astronomy Professor Jian Ge may very well be involved in its discovery. Ge and his team of planet trackers are on the verge of confirming the existence of several planets and, thanks to a new $875,000 grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation, finding life outside our solar system might not be so far behind.

Ge and colleagues within the department are in the process of building the world’s best planet tracker, which will increase the current planet survey speed by at least two orders of magnitude over traditional technology. Named the W.M. Keck Exoplanet Tracker, the Doppler instrument will search roughly 1 million stars during the next 15 years to detect thousands of planets and discover new solar systems where life may be possible. The tracker will be used at the Sloan Digital Sky Survey’s telescope at the Apache Point Observatory in Sunspot, New Mexico.

Ge received his PhD in astronomy from the University of Arizona in 1998 and served as an assistant professor at The Pennsylvania State University before coming to UF last year. “The main reasons for me to join UF was the university’s willingness to make a big commitment to astronomy and space science research and its ambition to become one of the best public schools,” he says. “I also like the university’s breadth and emphasis on interdisciplinary research.”

Ge has held research positions at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Steward Observatory and the Beijing Astronomical Observatory. In addition to extrasolar planet searches, his research focuses on planetary disks, brown dwarf and faint companion searches, quasar absorption line systems and optical and infrared instrument techniques.

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