Geoff Marcy presents a public talk at UC Berkeley on May 17th, 2011.
Science fiction taught us that our Milky Way Galaxy abounds with habitable planets populated by advanced civilizations engaged in interstellar commerce 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. We announced a truly rocky planet and the discovery of over 1200 planets having sizes less than twice that of Earth. These discoveries offer clues about the prevalence of worlds suitable for life. But 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.
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