Episode 19: Planet Hunting (with Mahesh Herath)

On this episode, we’re joined by Sri Lankan astronomer Mahesh Herath who made headlines last year when he discovered not one but two exoplanets – no big deal – in a remote corner of our galaxy. We talked about his rigorous research process and the future of space exploration technologies among other things.

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Mahesh Herath is a research scientist attached to the Arthur C Clarke Institute of Modern Technologies (ACCIMT). His discovery of two extra solar planets (exoplanets) orbiting a distant star has put Sri Lanka’s footprint on the map of space research.

Mahesh Herath read for his degree in physics at the University of Southampton, UK and then went on to do his master’s in space science at KU Leuven in Belgium. The course of study included spacecraft engineering, space law and statistics.

Mahesh is currently reading for his MPhil in planetary astronomy at the University of Colombo.

Mahesh is on Twitter at @MaheshHerath5.

Listen to all our episodes with Mahesh →

Show Notes

  1. Arthur C Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies: http://www.accimt.ac.lk/
  2. What Is an Exoplanet? https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/all-about-exoplanets/en/
  3. Trail blazer | Mahesh – Soaring success in space, Sunday Observer: http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2019/09/08/youth-observer/trail-blazer
  4. Kepler and K2: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/main/index.html
  5. CoRoT: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CoRoT
  6. TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite): https://tess.mit.edu/
  7. Without Jupiter Home Alone, Astrobiology Magazine: https://www.astrobio.net/jupiter-system/without-jupiter-home-alone/
  8. Earth’s Stabilizing Moon May Be Unique Within Universe, Space.com: https://www.space.com/12464-earth-moon-unique-solar-system-universe.html
  9. Creating Life on a Gas Giant, The Planetary Society: https://www.planetary.org/blogs/guest-blogs/2013/20131023-on-hunters-floaters-and-sinkers-from-cosmos.html
  10. Mini-Neptune (Sub-Neptune): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini-Neptune
  11. Super Earth: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super-Earth
  12. Ocean Planet: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_planet
  13. Planet GJ 1214 b: http://exoplanet.eu/catalog/gj_1214_b/
  14. K2-310 b: https://exoplanetarchive.ipac.caltech.edu/cgi-bin/DisplayOverview/nph-DisplayOverview?objname=K2-310+b&type=CONFIRMED_PLANET
  15. K2-310 c: https://exoplanetarchive.ipac.caltech.edu/cgi-bin/DisplayOverview/nph-DisplayOverview?objname=K2-310+c&type=CONFIRMED_PLANET
  16. Absorption spectroscopy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absorption_spectroscopy
  17. K-type main-sequence star (Orange Dwarf): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K-type_main-sequence_star
  18. EPIC 212737443: http://simbad.u-strasbg.fr/simbad/sim-id?protocol=html&Ident=EPIC%20212737443
  19. Binary Star Systems: Classification and Evolution, Space.com: https://www.space.com/22509-binary-stars.html
  20. Transit Photometry: https://www.planetary.org/explore/space-topics/exoplanets/transit-photometry.html
  21. Tabby’s Star: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabby%27s_Star
  22. Mass-radius relation: https://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/M/mass-radius_relation.html
  23. Two temperate sub-Neptunes transiting the star EPIC 212737443, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS): https://academic.oup.com/mnras/article-abstract/488/1/536/5519234?redirectedFrom=fulltext
  24. Danish 1.54-metre telescope: https://www.eso.org/public/teles-instr/lasilla/danish154/
  25. Python: https://www.python.org/
  26. Bayesian statistics: http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Bayesian_statistics
  27. Raavana 1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raavana_1
  28. Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, created by Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, Steven Soter: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmos:_A_Personal_Voyage
  29. Carl Sagan on superstition – observation: nothing; conclusion: dinosaurs: https://youtu.be/Cj5A0rKI0Ag
  30. Proxima Centauri: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proxima_Centauri
  31. Barnard’s Star: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barnard%27s_Star
  32. Ross 128 b: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ross_128_b
  33. Evidence for an Ocean (Europa): https://europa.nasa.gov/europa/ocean/
  34. Project Daedalus: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Daedalus
  35. Project Orion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion)
  36. Specific impulse: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specific_impulse
  37. Ion thruster: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ion_thruster
  38. Will we ever have genetically modified astronauts?, BBC: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20171123-will-we-ever-have-genetically-modified-astronauts
  39. Radioisotope thermoelectric generator: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioisotope_thermoelectric_generator

Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

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