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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Small Size, but Great Achievement

I’m really proud with Johny Setiawan's recent achievement. Albeit we were never really close friend, but we went to the same Junior High and High School. Although he’s quite small in size (especially in Europe), but his achievement is not only good for the nation, but already world class.

Still, the Johny I know is still the humble and low profile Johny, just as I knew back then.

He’s an Indonesian who brave the risk by taking a strange subject for most Indonesian, that is Astro Physics. Since then, he seems certain of his choice, although he knew almost impossible to apply his science in Indonesia.

OK, that’s enough for an introduction, now let’s see what’s his newest achievement: A discovery of an extra solar planet (that is planet from other star like our sun). This planet, called HD 11977B orbits a star named HD 11977A in less than two years period. The star itself is a giant star about twice the size of our sun. So the HD 11977A is considered as a medium mass star, which are known to have an orbiting planet which is smaller than the star itself.

Since 1999, the Astronomic team from the Max Planck Institue for Astronomy (Heidelberg, Jerman) which includes European and Brazilian astronomer; had observed the movement of the star HD 11977 A. They used high resolution FEROS spectrograph which are mounted on the 2.2 meter teleskop at the ESO Observatorium - Las Silla, Chile.

By using the doppler effect principle, the astronomic team which are lead by Johny observed the doppler shift of the star. If the radial speed observed is certain caused not by star activity (star spot), then it’s a proof that a sattelite or planet is orbiting it. It can then be calculated the mass of the planet orbiting the star. In the HD 11977 B case, the mass is certainly within range of planet mass limit.

This method is quite good, so far there’s 135 planets which has been detected using the method. The discovery of HD 11977 B becomes special since the mass of the star HD 11977 A is between 1.5 to 2 times of the mass of our sun. Star that size is rarely observed thoroughly to search for extra solar planets. HD 11977 B is the first planet found orbiting such stars which are measured thoroughly by spectroscopic measurement of spectral lines.

Furthermore, HD 11977 is a star 50 times brighter than our sun. Usually a much bigger star is required to have such level of activity than our sun. So the search of planet around giant star is considered much harder because the spectral lines must be analyzed precisely to avoid wrong interpretation of the variance of the radial speed.

The discovery of HD 11977 opens a new era in extra solar planets, where the star is more massive than Sun class star. The result gives important information about planets formation. How a planetary system with medium sized star or even giant star can still happen. What and why is not fully understood or explainable at this moment. The discovery of planets around a giant star is important to understand the evolution of the planetary system. For example, it’s still unknown how long a planet can survive, after the star used up its hydrogen ‘fuel’.

Once again, congratulations to Johny Setiawan and his colleague from the European astronomer team for their recent achievement. Surely the achievement of a young lad from Indonesia can be an oasis for the struggling nation. Hopefully Johny’s achievement is not the last for all Indonesian, but can be a jumpstart for other young Indonesian to follow his achievements in other subjects in the International level.


Who is Johny Setiawan?

He’s still young, but his discovery is world class. He’s born in Jakarta, on 16th of Agust 1974. This young man which still retains his Indonesian citizenship is still single. His parents still lives in Indonesia, while his sister also studies in Germany.

Before ‘migrating’ to Germany, Setiawan finish his high school at the Fons Vitae 1 High School, in Jakarta at Juni 1992. He finish his pre-studies at Studienkolleg Ruprechts-Karl-Universitat, Heidelberg pada Juli 1993. Setiawan is now a Post-Doctoral Scientist at the Max-Planck-Institut fur Astronomie, Heidelberg, Germany.

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