Wednesday, 8 October 2014

"Hunt for Earth-Like Alien Planets Heats Up" --Join a Live Google Webcast on October 15th


Based on projections of Kepler Mission exo-planet data, thousands of Earth-like, habitable planets should exist in other solar systems. With our ability to detect far-away planets getting better by the year, we’re on the verge of being able to tell which of these “exoplanets” harbor liquid water – a necessity for life as we know it, and one of the main features that astronomers look for when hunting Earth-like planets.

Just last month, astronomers for the first time detected water vapor in the atmosphere of a Neptune-sized planet. Although the planet lacks a rocky surface and orbits so close to its sun that the temperatures reach more than 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, its discovery proves our ability to detect water vapor on distant planets. The next step is to find it on a rocky, temperate world.

On October 15, 12:00-12:30 pm PDT, three exoplanet hunters will discuss what we can learn about these planets from our vantage point tens of light years away, and answer your questions about how close we are to discovering other Earths.

Watch an earlier Google hangout with Zachory Berta-Thompson, Bruce Macintosh, and Marie-Eve Naud – and start compiling a list of your still-unanswered questions about exoplanets! Questions can be submitted ahead of and during this webcast by email to or use the hashtag #KavliLive on Google+ or Twitter.

About the Participants:

ZACHORY BERTA-THOMPSON – Dr. Berta-Thompson is the Torres Fellow for Exoplanetary Research at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. He hunts for exoplanets as a member of the MEarth Project, a survey to find small planets orbiting the closest, smallest stars.

BRUCE MACINTOSH – Dr. Macintosh is the principal investigator for the Gemini Planet Imager, which searches for planets from the Gemini South telescope. GPI recently snapped its first image, thereby producing the best-ever direct photo of a planet outside our solar system. Dr. Macintosh is also a Professor of Physics at Stanford University and a member of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology.

MARIE-EVE NAUD – Ms. Naud is the University of Montreal PhD student who led analysis that recently uncovered a previously unknown giant planet using infrared light. The planet, known as GU Pisces b, is one of the most unusual exoplanets found to-date, with a mass 10 times greater than Jupiter's and orbiting its star at 2,000 times the distance between Earth and our sun.

KELEN TUTTLE (moderator) – Ms. Tuttle is a freelance journalist with more than a decade of experience in science communications. Most recently, she served as Editor-in-Chief of Symmetry, a magazine dedicated to the science and culture of particle physics. Her fields of expertise also include astrophysics and light-source science.

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