Campus Announcements

Lecture: Debra Fischer, “Searching for Other Earths: The Next Frontier for Exoplanet Science”

Thursday, April 30, 7:00 PM
Vollum lecture hall
This event is open to the public.

One of the great successes of modern astronomy was the discovery of a Jupiter-mass planet orbiting the sunlike star, 51 Pegasi in 1995. Since then, hundreds of planets and planetary systems have been detected; however, most would not be habitable for carbon-based life as we know it. The next frontier for exoplanet science is the discovery of analogs of Earth, laden with oceans of water. The discoveries that we have already made hint that these worlds should be common and new instruments are now being designed with the required sensitivity to find them. These are discoveries that will jolt the perspective of humanity and awaken a new view of the Universe. Debra Fischer, Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer and professor of astronomy and geology and geophysics at Yale University, began hunting for exoplanets in 1997 by measuring Doppler shifts in the spectra of stars. She has discovered hundreds of extrasolar planets with this technique, including the first known multiple planet system in 1999. Fischer’s analysis of stellar spectra demonstrated that gas giant planets were more likely to form around stars with a higher abundance of heavy elements and she quantified the now well-known “planet-metallicity” correlation. Fischer led an international consortium in 2003–08 to carry out a search for hot Jupiters orbiting metal-rich stars; that project alone detected more than 30 new extrasolar planets. Some of these planets transit in front of their host stars, enabling a measurement of the radius and mean density of the planets and permitting an observation of the atmosphere with transmission spectroscopy. Sponsored by Sigma Xi Columbia-Willamette Chapter and hosted by the Reed physics department.

For more information, contact Joel Franklin or visit:
http://events.reed.edu/posts/2014-15/lecture-debra-fischer.html.
Submitted by Brittney Corrigan-McElroy.
Posted on Mar 18, 2015

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