It's Always Planet-Hunting Season

There will be talk of Super-Earths and whatever else is out there... way out there

By Jonathan Lloyd
|  Thursday, Apr 22, 2010  |  Updated 6:01 AM PDT
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Space Shuttle Atlantis Hubble Mission

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team

On its 100,000th orbit of planet Earth, the Hubble Space Telescope peered into a small portion of the Tarantula Nebula near the star cluster NGC 2074, unveiling its stellar nursery. The region is a firestorm of raw stellar creation, triggered perhaps by a nearby supernova.

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The term "informational panel" doesn't sound very exciting. But call that informational panel's topic "The Quest for a Living World" and put a bunch of "planet hunters" on that panel -- now you have something. 

The panel, which includes author-blogger Phil Plait, Caltech's  John A. Johnson, Berkeley professor Gibor Basri, MIT professor Sara Seager and Tori Hoehler of NASA, will meet Wednesday night at Caltech. They'll talk about the search for planets similar to Earth -- planets capable of sustaining life.

Here's an excerpt from Caltech's website: 

Astronomers have found more than 400 alien worlds orbiting distant stars. So far, nearly all of these exoplanets are bigger than Jupiter and hotter than Mercury – places that appear very unfriendly to life. But astronomers are now starting to identify smaller, more intriguing objects, including potential water worlds and so-called super-Earths. Next-generation telescopes may soon close in on the ultimate goal: Finding alien planets that resemble Earth and may share the same wet, warm cocktail of chemicals that gave rise to life here.

Super-Earths? Warm cocktails? Sign us up.

The talk at Caltech's Beckman Auditorium starts at 7:30 p.m. It's free.

Caltech organized the event was in partnership with DISCOVER Magazine and Thirty Meter Telescope.
 

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