Dear Member,

Extra-solar planets are among the most thrilling discoveries of our age. Just today, scientists using Spitzer space telescope data announced the first detection of infrared light from an extra-solar planet. Ten years ago, we could not even prove that a single planet orbited even one of the hundreds of billions of stars visible to us in the Milky Way.

Now, in what has become an extremely innovative exploration effort, over 125 extra-solar planets — commonly called “exoplanets” — have been discovered. It has been nothing less than a triumphant leap forward — a true revolution — in exploration that will not only help us better understand our own origins, but could also help determine whether life is common, or rare, in our galaxy.

Unfortunately, the great scientific promise of these discoveries may not be realized.

The reason is simple: most of the data is not available to the scientific community, or to the public at large. Of course, preliminary information about each world was published as it was discovered. But scientists have continued to study them, adding mountains of data to those initial observations.

So, while a massive reservoir of fantastic information about these new worlds now exists… almost no one can tap into it because the new data has never been properly processed and released. There could be critical discoveries buried in those mounds of data that have never seen the light of day.

It’s a woeful situation…but one where The Planetary Society can, right now, step in and make a huge difference. In fact, we’ve been asked to do so directly by the very team of scientists who’ve discovered more exoplanets (99 of them!) than any other.

Specifically, the team headed by Dr. Geoff Marcy of the University of California at Berkeley wants our help in not only processing the data, but also in issuing the world’s first definitive “Catalog of Exoplanets.” This catalog will cover all exoplanets that have been found to date — every one of the 126, some found by Marcy’s group, some by other researchers — and will be designed so that it can be continuously updated in the future, thus ensuring that the situation we now face will never again occur.

Help make the “Catalog of Exoplanets” possible at:

Marcy’s team has, so far, discovered almost 100 planets orbiting other stars. These successes have pleased everyone, including the “powers that be” in academia and the space community who’ve made sure that funds are available to continue looking for more planets.

But…no one seems willing to provide the resources it’ll take to do anything with the findings. So the information keeps piling up, but goes unprocessed. Without processing, no one can make any use of it.

Dr. Marcy wants to correct that by issuing to the world a Catalog that will become a one-stop treasure house containing everything we’ve learned about these planets.

Once this Catalog is complete, scientists worldwide will be able to initiate exoplanet studies on their own, including studies of how solar systems form and evolve.

Moreover, in the best tradition of “democratizing” space exploration, this information will also be available to non-scientists: to teachers, students, space enthusiasts, everyone.

With The Planetary Society’s help, Marcy’s team will be able to create an entirely new “Catalog of Exoplanets.” In it, they’ll update the orbit data of all 99 of the planets they’ve discovered over the years, including all the latest velocities and corrections. Then they’ll supplement this with up-to-date information on planets discovered by others.

With this permanent web resource we will be able to continually revise the information as new discoveries are made and new refinements to those discoveries are reported. Dr. Marcy’s group has agreed to serve long term as an oversight and review committee on the online catalog.

Emphatically, this IS scientific work of the most fundamental and essential sort. Making new discoveries available in truly usable form to those who need and can use it really is where “the rubber meets the road” in every field of science.

And I don’t think you can overstate the importance of this work. This information will add immeasurably to our understanding of the galaxy, of our own solar system, and, quite possibly, of the origins of life.

I hope you agree that this is an ideal project for us — one that needs to be done, that will make a real difference, and that will not be done unless we do it. If so, I urge you to take swift action. Pitch in with as generous a gift as you can afford, a contribution that will (I promise!) be immediately put to good and vigorous use.

To make the “Catalog of Exoplanets” possible go to:

Thank you.

Louis Friedman,
Executive Director

P.S. If you haven’t received it already, you will probably be getting a letter about this project in the mail. If you have already sent in your donation we thank you.