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Friday, November 17, 2017

The search for another earth (preferably one without a Donald Trump)

Astrophysicist, planetary scientist Sara Seager to speak Nov. 28 at URI
By Olivia Ross

space sun GIFSara Seager, one of Time magazine’s Most 25 Influential People in Space, will present a lecture titled, “The Search for Another Earth,” as part of this year’s Honors Colloquium at the University of Rhode Island.

The lecture will be held on Nov. 28 at 7 p.m. in Edwards Hall, 64 Upper College Road.

Seager is a professor of earth, atmospheric, and planetary science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a 2013 MacArthur Fellow.

The MacArthur Fellowship Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.

The focus of Seager’s research revolves around theory, computation, and data analysis of exoplanets.
Exoplanets are planets that exist beyond our solar system and orbit around stars other than the sun. 

Some of her most substantial contributions to the field of exoplanet characterization include work that led to the first detection of an exoplanet atmosphere.


Seager also works in space instrumentation and space missions for exoplanets.

Referred to by NASA as an “astronomical Indiana Jones,” Seager has published two textbooks on the topics of extrasolar planets and their atmospheres.

Seager earned her bachelor’s degree from the Math and Science Physics Specialist Program at the University of Toronto and her Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard University.

In addition to studying exoplanets and their atmospheres, Seager is frontiering advanced hardware design and space mission projects, including ExoplanetSat.

This particular endeavor aims to build low-cost “nano-satellites” to observe planetary transits.
Essentially, the concept involves dozens of cheap replicas of an extremely small space telescope that will provide the ability to explore space in ways like never before.

The ultimate goal of Seager’s research is to find an earth-like exoplanet and determine that there is life on it.

In order for life to be sustainable on an exoplanet, it would have to be one of reasonable mass that orbits its star within a comfortable temperature that is not too hot or too cold and would allow water to remain liquid.

Titled, “Origins: Life, the Universe and Everything,” this fall’s colloquium addresses such questions as “Where did we come from? How did the universe begin? How did intelligent, rational beings arise? And from such humble beginnings, how did we develop a mind that can ask these big questions?

Now in its 54th year, the colloquium is the University’s premier public lecture series, offering lectures on most Tuesday evenings through Dec. 5. Seager’s lecture will be shown on the web at stream.uri.edu