Astrobiology

Cancelled - Some Radical Thoughts on SETI

Due to circumstances beyond our control, this talk has been cancelled.

How have the SETI Institute’s efforts to track down cosmic company changed in the last decade, and what is the influence of the discovery of exoplanets? In this talk, we delve into the current thinking in our search for intelligence beyond Earth, but also consider the effect of our inevitable anthropocentric bias in shaping SETI strategies. Could it be that we should be looking elsewhere for technically competent beings?

 

NASA's search for habitable planets and life beyond the solar system

Dr. Gary H. Blackwood earned his BS, MS and PHD in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from MIT. He has been an employee at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA since 1988 and has worked on technology development for precision astronomical instruments and astrophysics missions including the Hubble Wide/Field Planetary Camera-2, the StarLight formation-flying interferometer, the Space Interferometry Mission and the Terrestrial Planet Finder.

A Journey to Alpha Centauri

The Alpha Centauri star system is ideal to search for habitable planets by various observing techniques due to its proximity and wide range of stellar masses. Following the recent discovery of an Earth-size planet candidate located inside the Proxima Centauri habitable zone, Dr. Marois will discuss this remarkable discovery and the planet’s potential to find life.

Latest Exoplanet Results from NASA's Kepler/K2 Mission

The all-sky TESS mission will soon revolutionize our view of planets transiting the nearest, brightest stars to the Sun, just as the four-year survey by NASA's Kepler mission transformed our understanding of exoplanet demographics. Using the repurposed Kepler spacecraft, the ongoing K2 mission provides a natural transition from Kepler to TESS in terms of sky coverage, survey duration, and intensity of ground-based follow-up observations.

Search for extrasolar moons and rings using transit observations

Given the detection of several thousand extrasolar planets, a very interesting question is whether or not they have moons or rings. In the cases of extrasolar Jupiter analogs, the gas giant may not support life, but a moon could be suitable. Exomoons or rings have not yet been detected with Kepler data, but the directly imaged Fomalhaut b is thought to be optically bright because of stellar light scattering off a circumplanetary dust ring (Kalas et al.

Stellar occultations of planetary rings: from Palomar to Cassini

Chance observations of stars as they pass behind planets have provided some of our most valuable data on the structure of planetary ring systems, beginning with the discovery of the uranian rings with the Kuiper Airborne Observatory in 1977. As a graduate student at Caltech in the 70s, I became involved first in studies of the dynamically-curious uranian rings at Mount Palomar and later in unraveling the story of the even more baffling ring arcs of Neptune.

Origins of Structure in Planetary Systems

Observations confirm that planet formation is a ubiquitous process that produces a diversity of planetary systems. However, a class of solar system analogs has yet to be identified among the thousands of currently known planets and candidates, the overwhelming majority of which are more easily detectable than direct counterparts of the Sun's worlds.

Exocomets: Now you see them, now you don't

Minor bodies such as Kuiper Belt objects, comets, and asteroids constitute the rocky and icy debris left over from the planet building phase of our solar system. The existence of reservoirs of small rocky bodies (i.e., asteroids/planetesimals) in orbits around young stellar systems is now well established, with their presence being required by current (exo)planetary formation theories.

Constraining the Evolution of a Delta Deposit on Mars from Orbit

Decades of planetary exploration have revealed widespread evidence for ancient fluvial activity on the surface of Mars, including deeply incised valleys, paleolake basins, and an extensive sedimentary rock record. Acquisition of high-resolution remote sensing data of the martian surface (e.g., images and topography) over the past 5-10 years have allowed for quantitative analysis of the large-scale sedimentary structures of martian sedimentary deposits.

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