I spent my thesis working with the Automated Planet Finder (APF) telescope at Lick Observatory, helping first to commission the new telescope and then developing the robotic scheduler that powers the APF facility on a nightly basis. This fully autonomous scheduler integrates my knowledge of the telescope, spectrograph, and the stellar targets to carry out efficient and effective observing campaigns without human oversight. So the telescope can carry on with its goal of doing excellent exoplanet science all night, every night while the astronomers using it actually get to sleep! Well, most of the time.
Once I was no longer staying up all night with the telescope, I led one of the first planet discoveries from the APF – that of a Neptune mass planet orbiting the nearby M dwarf GJ 687. And I developed the software for extracting key activity indicators from the APF spectra (the Ca II H & K lines and the H-alpha line) which we use to try and distinguish between periodic signals induced by planets and signals that are caused by magnetic activity in the star itself.
When trying to discover longer period planets or planets that induce relatively small signals, it is often necessary to combine data from a number of RV facilities. My recent paper, which reports the discovery of three new, low mass planets orbiting the stars HD 190007 and HD 216520, combines APF and HIRES data to enable the detection not only of these planets but also of long term magnetic cycles in the stars that last almost a decade.
GJ687 b paper