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28th Annual Bunyan Lecture: "Light and Shadow: Kepler's Search for Habitable Worlds"

March 10, 2011 - 7:30pm
Braun Auditorium, Mudd Chemistry Bldg., 333 Campus Dr.

Free and open to the public

Natalie M. Batalha, San Jose State University Associate Professor and Deputy Science Team Lead of Kepler Mission will give the 28th Annual Bunyan Lecture, presented by Stanford University's Astronomy program. Abstract:  Humankind's speculation about the existence of other worlds like our own turned into a veritable quest with the launch of NASA's Kepler spacecraft in March 2009. The mission is designed to survey a slice of the Milky Way Galaxy to identify planets orbiting other stars. It looks for the telltale dimming of light that occurs when an orbiting planet passes in front of the star thereby casting a shadow into space. The roster of exoplanets discovered by Kepler has reached 15 in number, including one world that is unquestionably rocky in composition. Moreover, the team has released a catalog of more than one thousand stars showing the recurring dimmings of light that suggest the presence of a planet. The methods used to identify planets will be described in this talk as well as the discoveries that have been announced to date. Now beginning its third year of operation, Kepler is honing in on the answer to the question that drives the mission: are potentially inhabitable worlds abundant in our galaxy.

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Department of Physics
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