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Spotlight

Life in the Universe Lecture Series: Dr. Chris Impey

As part of this year's College of Science Lecture Series, our own Professor Chris Impey is speaking on Monday night March 9. Don't forget, this series is insanely popular, so get there early.

 

Christopher D. Impey, University Distinguished Professor, Astronomy

Intelligent Life Beyond Earth

One question rises above all others when it comes to our place in a vast and ancient Universe, 'Are we alone?' With a billion habitable locations in the Milky Way galaxy, and more than ten billion years for biological experiments to play out, a search for intelligent life beyond Earth is well-motivated. Unfortunately, the single example of life on Earth gives no clear indication of whether intelligence is an inevitable or an extremely rare consequence of biological evolution. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI, is more appropriately called the search for extraterrestrial technology. So far, the search for intelligent aliens by their electromagnetic communication has met with half a century of stony silence. It's challenging to define life, and even more difficult to make general definitions of intelligence and technology. We'll look at the premises and assumptions involved in the search, the strategies used, and the profound consequences of making contact.

For more information, go HERE

 

Life in the Universe Lecture Series: Dr. Laird Close

As part of this year's College of Science Lecture Series, our own Professor Laird Close is speaking on Monday night March 2. Don't forget, this series is insanely popular, so get there early.

Laird M. Close, Professor, Astronomy/Steward Observatory

Amazing Discoveries: A Billion Earth-like Worlds

Laird's Abstract: "One of the most fascinating developments in the last two decades is humankind's discovery of alien worlds orbiting stars near our Sun. Since the first such discovery in 1995 there has been a truly exponential growth in the detection of these new planets. Scientists have been puzzled and surprised by the diversity and extravagance of these new extra-solar systems. For example, we now know the most common type of planet is actually missing from our own Solar System. Recently, the space-based NASA Kepler Mission has discovered thousands of new worlds and suggests that one in five Sun-like stars may harbor an Earth-like planet. We will take a grand tour of some of these amazing new worlds, specifically noting where life might already exist, beyond our Solar System. The latest developments and difficulties of direct imaging for life on an exoplanet will be discussed."

For more information, go HERE

MacArthur Fellows Speaker Series: Olivier Guyon

Dr. Olivier Guyon, Department of Astronomy and College of Optical Sciences, MacArthur Fellow Class of 2012, will speak Feb 26 at the MacArthur Fellows Speaker Series. 

The UA Graduate Center is proud to present the MacArthur Fellows Speaker Series. The University of Arizona is home to several recipients of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, an initiative of the MacArthur Foundation, which awards individuals that exemplify exceptional creativity, significant accomplishment, and boundless potential. From neuroscience and astronomy to linguistics, ethnobotany, and anthropology, the UA’s MacArthur Fellows are changing the world for the better. This speaker series explores and celebrates the innovation and impact of our MacArthur Fellows’ work.

Location: Cesar E. Chavez Building, Room 111, 1110 E James E Rogers Way

When: February 26

Time: 5:30 - 6:30 PM

Free and open to the public. Light refreshments and hors d'oeuvres will be served.

Title: Observing Exoplanets and Looking for Life around other Stars

Abstract: The first exoplanet around a Sun-like stars was identified 20yr ago, and we are now finding exoplanets at an accelerating pace thanks to recent technological advances. In the last years, astronomers have found that potentially habitable planets (rocky planets about as massive as Earth, located at the right distance from their host star to sustain liquid water) are abundant, with one such planet around 10% to 50% of stars. Finding and studying habitable planets around nearby stars is a formidable challenge, but is rapidly becoming possible, with both space-based telescopes free of atmospheric disturbances and the upcoming generation of extremely large telescopes on the ground. To directly image and study habitable planets around nearby stars requires exotic optical systems, tuned to reject the bright starlight to observe a planet millions to billions times fainter. I will show how such systems are using new optics tricks, and are now coming online. I will also briefly introduce project PANOPTES, a citizen science effort to crowdsource exoplanet finding using a network of small robotic wide field cameras. Project PANOPTES, soon to be launched, will enable schools, amateur astronomers and citizen scientists to discover with small cameras exoplanets that will then be studied with the largest space and ground telescopes.

Photo: MacArthur Foundation

Former Stewardites as AAS Councilors and Officers

Two former Stewardites, Charles Liu (PhD 1996) and Sally Oey (PhD 1995), and current NOAO staff member Knut Olsen, were elected to American Astronomical Society positions: Sally is a Councilor, Charles is Education Officer, and Knut is on the Nominating Committee. For more information, see HERE.

Thoughts on Going to Europa

THIS article contains a variety of thoughts by Chris Impey on how one might fund a serious mission to Europa. The obvious way, proposing to NASA, is underway, and some LPL folks discuss the new call for proposals HERE. The spaceflightinsider article linked above contains some other thoughts and ideas, namely, private funding.

Photo credit: NASA/JPL

 

Learning how to Teach a MOOC: A Conversation with University Distinguished Professor Chris Impey

Chris Impey's next Massive Online Open Course is set to begin Feb 15. An article and a Q&A with Chris can be found HERE. While Chris's first MOOC continues, this one has tweaks, such as more videos, quizzes, outside activities and peer-reviewed writing. There are two overarching goals: the first is to teach astronomy to those signed up and have them come away with knowledge and ideas of the richness of what we study; the second is to learn how to do a better job teaching these sorts of very different classes. You can also check out this video link from Chris's Facebook page HERE. The website for the course is HERE, and the Coursera link is HERE. Finally, a recent radio interview with Chris can be found HERE

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