The 2011 Henry R. and Gladys V. Irons Lecture
Science fiction portrays our Milky Way galaxy as filled with habitable
planets populated by advanced civilizations engaged in interstellar trade and
conflict. Back in our real universe, Earth-like planets and alien life have
proved elusive. Has science fiction led us astray? NASA recently launched a
new space-borne telescope, Kepler, dedicated to discovering the first
Earth-like worlds around other stars. The first results are startling and
profound. How common are worlds that are suitable for life? What properties
make a planet livable? How common is life in the universe, especially
intelligent life? New telescopic and biological observations are providing
the first answers to these questions.
Geoff Marcy is a Professor of Astronomy at the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Marcy's research is focused on the detection of extrasolar planets and brown dwarfs. His team has discovered more than 100 extrasolar planets, allowing study of their masses and orbits. Among the planets discovered are the first multiple-planet system, the first Saturn-mass planet, the first Neptune-mass planet, and the first transiting planet. Ongoing work is designed to study the mass distribution of planets and the eccentricity of their orbits, including the successful search for Earth-like planets with NASA's Kepler satellite. Dr. Marcy is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, received the Carl Sagan Award from the Planetary Society, and was named the Space Scientist of the Year by Discover magazine.
For the Rutgers scientific community, Professor Marcy will also present a more technical research seminar on Friday, April 8 at 3:00 P.M., in Serin Laboratory Room 385E, on "Exoplanets: Misaligned, Migratory, Metallic, and Mini."