mountain profile Institute for Astronomy University of Hawaii

Exoplanet Paper Wins National Academy of Sciences Prize

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For immediate release
March 18, 2014


Dr. Andrew Howard

Erik Petigura

Ms. Louise Good
Media Contact


A paper co-authored by University of Hawaii at Manoa astronomer Andrew Howard and visiting graduate student Erik Petigura has won the Cozzarelli Prize from the National Academy of Sciences. This prize recognizes six outstanding papers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the major scientific disciplines covered by that journal. Their paper titled “The prevalence of Earth-size planets orbiting Sun-like stars” was judged the top paper in the physical and mathematical sciences in 2013.

Petigura, Howard, and University of California, Berkeley professor Geoffrey Marcy statistically determined that twenty percent of sun-like stars in our galaxy have Earth-size planets with surface temperatures that could support liquid water. The findings, gleaned from data collected from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft and the W. M. Keck Observatory, satisfied Kepler's primary mission: a determination of the fraction of stars in our galaxy with potentially habitable planets.

“What this means is, when you look up at the thousands of stars in the night sky, the nearest sun-like star with an Earth-size planet in its habitable zone is probably only 12 light-years away and can be seen with the naked eye. That is amazing,” said Petigura, who led the analysis of the Kepler and Keck Observatory data.

Petigura is a graduate student from the University of California, Berkeley who is spending a year working with Howard at UH Manoa.

This is the second Cozzarelli Prize for UH scientists. In 2010, John Dore, Roger Lukas, Daniel Sadler, Matthew Church, and David Karl were awarded the prize for their paper titled “Physical and biogeochemical modulation of ocean acidification in the central North Pacific.”

Papers selected for the Cozzarelli Prize were chosen from more than 3,800 research articles published by PNAS in 2013. The annual award acknowledges recently published papers that reflect scientific excellence and originality. The award was established in 2005 and named the Cozzarelli Prize in 2007 to honor late PNAS Editor-in-Chief Nicholas R. Cozzarelli.

The 2013 awards will be presented at the PNAS Editorial Board Meeting, and awardees will be recognized at the awards ceremony during the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting on April 27, 2014, in Washington, DC.

The awarding-winning research was supported by the University of Hawaii, the University of California, the W. M. Keck Observatory, NASA, and the National Science Foundation.


Photo of Erik Petigura (left) and Andrew Howard (credit: Karen Teramura, UHIfA)

The paper: The Prevalence of Earth-Size Planets Orbiting Sun-Like Stars

Earlier press release: Astronomers Conclude Habitable Planets Are Common

Founded in 1967, the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa conducts research into galaxies, cosmology, stars, planets, and the sun. Its faculty and staff are also involved in astronomy education, deep space missions, and in the development and management of the observatories on Haleakala and Mauna Kea. The Institute operates facilities on the islands of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii.