Science & Society Distinguished Public Talks

Co-sponsored by the Albuquerque Section of the Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and its Life Members Affinity Group, Sigma Xi (the Scientific Research Society), the UNM Department of Physics & Astronomy, and the UNM Division of Continuing Education.


The Search for Habitable Planets


Debra Fischer

5:30 PM Thursday, 19 February 2015

The University of New Mexico Conference Center, Auditorium

1634 University Blvd. NE

Meet & Greet: 5 p.m.

Pizza with the speaker will follow the lecture

Debra Ann Fischer is a professor of astronomy at Yale University researching detection and characterization of exoplanets. She contributed to the discovery of the first known multiple-planet system. Fischer has co-authored over 200 papers on stellar astrophysics and extrasolar planets. She led the N2K Consortium searching for hot Jupiters around metal-rich stars. For the last decade, she has been leading an instrumentation effort to reach Earth-detecting measurement precision. She was the principal investigator for CHIRON, the CTIO High Resolution Spectrometer in Chile and for EXPRES, a special-purpose spectrometer that will be commissioned at Lowell Observatory in 2016.

Abstract. One of the great successes of modern astronomy was the discovery of a Jupiter-mass planet orbiting the sunlike star, 51 Pegasi in 1995. Since then, hundreds of planets and planetary systems have been detected; however, most would not be habitable for carbon-based life as we know it. The next frontier for exoplanet science is the discovery of analogs of Earth, laden with oceans of water. The discoveries that we have already made hint that these worlds should be common and new instruments are now being designed with the required sensitivity to find them. These are discoveries that will jolt the perspective of humanity and awaken a new view of the Universe.