Thursday, September 3, 2009

Save the date!

Keynote Public Lecture: How to Find a Habitable Planet

The Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics Free Public Tour is happy to announce a special tour in September. A series of events will take place on the St. George campus, including original songs of space and space flight, presented by the Filk Society, a public talk, telescope tours, and a free movie screening.

September 26, 2009 9:10 PM Speaker: Prof. David Charbonneau


6:30 - 7:20 Filk music
7:30 - 8:55 Public lecture, followed by a Q&A session and refreshments.
9:10 - 10:00 Hawaiian Starlight / First observing session
10:00 - 12:00 Second observing session

About filk:

What is filk? What kind of music is it? Here are some answers.

Free movie screening:

Hawaiian Starlight, a film by Jean-Charles Cuillandre. Watch trailer1 and trailer2.

Observing sessions:

We offer observing sessions through our 4 telescopes. Meanwhile we also offer a virtual sky tour and a screening of astronomy shorts. An astronomer will be on site to answer your questions about the Universe as well. Don’t miss “Ask an Astronomer”!

Public talk abstract:

For centuries humans have gazed up at the stars and wondered whether there be life on worlds other than our own. We are fortunate to live at the moment in history when, for the first time, we have the technological ability to answer that question. In the past decade astronomers have uncovered hundreds of worlds orbiting nearby stars, and developed the methods necessary to understand the chemical make-up of their atmospheres. However, those studies have so far been restricted to large gas giant planets like Jupiter that are unlikely abodes for life. Several observatories deployed only in the past year offer the very real opportunity to detect far smaller, rocky worlds similar to the Earth. Once identified, we will probe the atmospheres that enshroud these distant orbs for chemical evidence of biological activity on the surface below.

Speaker’s mini bio:

David Charbonneau is the Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University. His research focuses on the development of novel techniques for the detection and characterization of planets orbiting nearby stars. As a graduate student, he used a 4-inch telescope to make the first detection of an exoplanet eclipsing its parent star, which yielded the first ever constraint on the composition of a planet outside the Solar system. Dr. Charbonneau also pioneered the use of space-based observatories to undertake the first studies of the atmospheres of these distant worlds. He is currently leading the MEarth Project and is a member of the NASA Kepler Mission Team. Each of these projects aims to detect Earth like planets that might be suitable abodes for life beyond the Solar system. Dr. Charbonneau was recently awarded NASA's Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal and the US National Science Foundation's Waterman Award, and in 2007 he was named Scientist of the Year by Discover Magazine.

Not sure if I'll stick around for the movie, but those first two events sounds pretty awesome.

Dan's cottage