2012 Brinson Lecture to explore exoplanets under planetarium dome

Steve Koppes
Associate News DirectorUniversity Communications

Harvard University astronomy professor David Charbonneau will present the 2012 Brinson Lecture, titled “The Fast Track to Find an Inhabited Exoplanet.”

Charbonneau’s lecture will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2 in the immersive multimedia environment of Definiti Theater at the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. Admission is $10 for the general public, $5 for Adler members and students. This event is co-sponsored by the University of Chicago’s Department of astronomy & astrophysics and Adler Planetarium.

Humans have pondered for generations about the existence of inhabited worlds other than Earth, but scientists now have the technological ability to answer this question. In the past year astronomers have found the first Earth-sized worlds orbiting other suns, and the first exoplanets with temperatures that can sustain liquid water. Charbonneau will explain how, if he and his colleagues can study the atmospheres of exoplanets — planets orbiting stars other than the sun — they can search for the telltale molecular fingerprints of life.

Charbonneau led the first studies of the compositions of exoplanets and of their atmospheres, and he is a member of the NASA Kepler Mission to find Earth-like planets. He has received numerous awards for his research, including the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement. Discover Magazine also named Charbonneau its 2007 Scientist of the Year.

For more information about the Brinson Lectures, which are supported by the Brinson Foundation, visit http://astro.uchicago.edu/events/brinson-lectures.shtml.