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Man on a Mission
Photograph by Mark Thiessen

David Charbonneau, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, perches on the shed housing his robotic planet-hunting telescope, Sleuth, at Palomar Mountain in California. Sleuth is designed to monitor a broad swath of sky, containing thousands of stars, night after night. Its detector watches each star for the one percent dimming that could signal a giant planet crossing its face. "For astronomers this is really charming, funny," he says of Sleuth's tiny four-inch (ten-centimeter) lens. But using similar telescopes, Charbonneau and other astronomers have already detected two giant planets, including one near the star HD 209458.

Photo Fast Facts

Camera: Canon EOS 1Ds
Film Type: Digital, ISO 100
Lens: 16-35mm
Speed and F-Stop: 10 sec. @ f/3.2

Weather Conditions: Clear
Time of Day: Dusk
Lighting Techniques: Strobes inside building, one blue-gelled strobe on tall lightstand strapped to top of tree at right.


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