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Man uses computers to discover four planets

A British utility employee who doesn't even own a telescope he is credited with discovering four previously unknown planets using his two computers.

How do you expect to achieve immortality?

Well, should sporting prowess have passed you by, or should you have suffered an unfortunate career-ending injury on a night out with some foreign language students, perhaps you might might use your computer to discover a planet or two.

Or, in the case of British utility worker Peter Jalowiczor, four.

The Daily Mail reports that Jalowiczor is something of an astronomical enthusiast, despite not actually owning a telescope. If you want to discover a previously unknown planet, you don't apparently need the technology enjoyed by Admiral Lord Nelson.

Jalowiczor told the Mail that he used two home computers--and much of the spare time of his last three years--to analyze data released by the University of California's Lick-Carnegie Planet Search Team in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Jalowiczor, who does have a couple of college degrees, used Doppler spectroscopy to locate planets that are too far away to be located by telescopes or Richard Branson spacecraft.

And now planets HD31253b, HD218566b, HD177830c, and HD99492c all have Jalowiczor as their co-Columbus.

Would people have deep feelings for Pluto if it were just HD447799b?Photo by CC Lunar and Planetary Institute/Flickr

He described his technique to the Mail: "I look for faint changes in stars' behaviors that can only be caused by a planet or planets orbiting about them. Once I identify likely candidates, I send the details back to Santa Cruz."

In the countless nights that he spent searching he was, he told the Mail, looking for a very simple phenomenon: "If a planet orbits a star it causes a tiny wobble in the star's motion and this wobble reveals itself in the star's light."

So tonight--and perhaps for the next year or two--perhaps you should put aside your video games and deny yourself the pleasures of your DVR recording of VH1's "Basketball Wives."

Instead, you could go to your computer and discover your own planet far, far away. And when you do, please appeal to those who name planets. Please encourage them to stop using those dull nomenclatures that look like emergency passwords sent by online retailers.

Planets are not just a number. They are personalities. And, for all we know, they have feelings. I feel sure Pluto, the ousted planet, certainly does.

Wouldn't you prefer to hear about what's happening on Planet Jalowiczor rather than Planet HD31253b?