SETI Talks - Exocomets: Icy bodies from Distant Systems

SETI Talks

Tags: SETI Talks, Astronomy, Astrobiology, Comets, Meteors, and Asteroids

Time: Wednesday, Oct 19, 2022 -

Location: Online

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Evidence for exocomets, icy bodies in extrasolar planetary systems, has rapidly increased over
the past decade. Researchers have detected pockets of volatile gases around young stars and star-grazing exocomets transiting in front of their star. With the recently launched JWST, the rapid advances of this budding subfield of exoplanetary science will continue in the short term. They will accelerate with the upcoming Roman Space telescope and the PLATO mission.

To discuss the birth of this new field in astronomy and what we can learn about own solar system by observing those exocomets, we invited Paul Kalas, Professor at the University of California at Berkeley and Luca Matrà, assistant professor at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Both pioneered the field of exocometary science by direct imaging techniques using the Hubble Space Telescope and the ALMA millimetric array, emphasizing detecting exocomet belts.

The discovery of exocomets in other planetary systems could explain how young Earths can acquire and retain the basic volatiles needed for prebiotic chemistry, an essential step in the genesis of life as we know it.

Luca Matra

Prof. Luca Matrà is an Assistant Professor at Trinity College Dublin, whose research focuses on exocometary belts in the outer regions of planetary systems. His work ranges from population studies to high-resolution dust imaging and gas observations, especially at mm wavelengths. A particular focus is gas spectroscopy across the wavelength spectrum and its modelling to learn about the composition of exocomets in the latest stages of terrestrial planet formation.

Paul Kalas

Paul Kalas is a professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley. He specializes in the imaging of planets, comets and asteroids that orbit nearby stars. His discovery of a planet orbiting the nearby star Fomalhaut was hailed as a top scientific breakthrough of 2008 and it is the only planet ever discovered using the Hubble Space Telescope. He is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and has been awarded the Newcomb Cleveland Prize which includes as a previous recipient Edwin Hubble.

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