Towards Other Earths [Lecture]

McDonald Observatory
McDonald Observatory
Creative Commons License photo credit: Nick Shine

Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Fritz Benedict. He is a Senior Research Scientist at UT-Austin’s McDonald Observatory in west Texas. He is also involved with NASA and is currently attending the Towards Other Earths conference in Portugal. Dr. Benedict will be giving a lecture at HMNS on October 27, at 6:30 p.m.

Hello from Portugal, where it is raining; water from the sky, and exciting new developments in the area of extrasolar planets.

All of this week, experts from around the world are sharing ideas and results about planets tens to hundreds of light years away. It is absolutely amazing how much we can determine about exoplanets: mass, size, composition of atmosphere, temperature and density.

Planet Sunset
Creative Commons License photo credit: kevindooley

But, these are all gas giants (like Jupiter) or even larger. The holy grail in this game is a planet that is very similar to Earth; a place with a surface gravity, atmosphere, and oceans like we enjoy. So, this conference (called Towards Other Earths) has a reason to exist. What will be required to find and characterize an earth-like planet tens of light years distant?

Next week I will be in your neighborhood on 27 October, giving a talk at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and will report on a few of the fascinating results from Towards Other Earths. Hope to see you all there!

Make sure you join us at the George Observatory for Astronomy Day on October 24. Visitors will be able to participate in crafts, activities, lectures and astronomy exhibits, all free with the price of admission to Brazos Bend State Park.