American university professor searches for life outside our solar system
The April 21 session of the 2016 Royal Tyrrell Museum’s Speaker Series is a presentation by Dr. Edward Guinan, Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Villanova University, Pennsylvania entitled “Searching for Life-bearing Exoplanets in our Galaxy.”
Exoplanets are planets that exist outside of our solar system.
The number of confirmed exoplanets is rapidly growing and now exceeds two thousand. An additional nearly 5,000 exoplanet candidates are awaiting confirmation in the NASA Exoplanet Archive.
Most of these planets have been discovered by the NASA Kepler Mission, a space observatory launched by NASA specifically to discover Earthsize planets orbiting other stars. Smaller subsets of these planets are similar in size to the Earth and orbit in the (liquid water) Habitable Zones (HZ) of their host stars.
It is estimated that about ten to fifteen percent of solartype stars and about twenty to twenty-five percent of the more numerous cooler (red dwarf) stars host Earth-size HZ planets. These planets are of great interest because they have conditions roughly similar to Earth and therefore could be potentially habitable planets (PHPs).
This talk briefly discusses how these exoplanets are discovered; however, the main focus will be on the stellar and planet properties that appear necessary for life to form and develop on their surfaces. New missions and techniques to detect signatures of life (biosignatures) on these planets are presented along with the feasibility of interstellar missions to nearby HZ exoplanets that could support life.
The Royal Tyrrell Museum’s Speaker Series talks are free and open to the public. The series is held every Thursday until April 28, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. in the Museum auditorium. Past presentations are also available on the Museum’s YouTube channel: youtube.com/user/RoyalTyrrellMuseum. For more information, visit tyrrellmuseum.com.
Dr. Edward Guinan, professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Villanova University