According to the San Francisco Chronicle, it is the most significant discovery in astronomy since Galileo spotted the moons of Jupiter and Sea Shepherd Director Dr. Benjamin Zuckerman is an important member of the team that has photographed the first directly visible planet orbiting the starlight body other than the Sun.
Ben is a professor of astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has been a Sea Shepherd member since the early 1980's, a Sea Shepherd crew member in 1998 and he presently sits on the Board of Directors of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
The planet can be seen as a very faint and very red point of light orbiting a brown dwarf star about 230 light years from the Earth in the constellation Hydra.
Never before has a planet been visually discovered. There is evidence of the existence of other planets determined by observations of gravitational pull but this discovery marks the first time that an actual planet has been visually observed. So far, more than 120 planets have been discovered outside the solar system. This is the first planet to be seen and photographed.
The planet appears to be several times the size of Jupiter and 55 times as far from the brown dwarf as our Earth is from the Sun so the probability of life on the surface is close to zero. It is most likely a very cold gas giant.
Professor Zuckerman is part of a team that includes Gael Chauvin, Christophe Dumas, Anne-Marie Lagrange, Jean-Luc Beuzit and David Mouillet of Europe and Zuckerman and his UCLA colleagues Inseok Song and Patrick Lowrance at Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC) in Pasadena.
Captain Paul Watson, who had the honor of teaching an honors course on Science, Technology and the Environment at UCLA with professor Zuckerman, is very proud of the fact that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has such an outstanding scientist on its board. In addition to Dr. Zuckerman's incredible achievements in astronomy, he is also a noted environmental activist, a board member of the Sierra Club and one of the most outspoken advocates for human population stabilization in the United States. He has hosted a seminar on the Galapagos at UCLA and spent time in the Galapagos. He knows first hand about the threats facing the Galapagos and is working with Sea Shepherd and the Sierra Club towards addressing the problems in this unique world heritage site.
Dr. Zuckerman understands that if we are to explore space and seek knowledge amongst the stars, we must first insure that the environment and the earth is protected from escalating human population growth which is the leading cause of species extinction on our planet.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society applauds the environmental activism of Dr. Benjamin Zuckerman at the same time that we applaud his incredible astronomical discovery.