Forty-First George Gamow Memorial Lecture
Geoffrey W. Marcy
Professor of Astronomy,
University of California, Berkeley
Adjunct Professor of Physics & Astronomy,
San Francisco State University
"New Worlds, Yellowstone, and Life in the Universe"
Free and open to the public
Thursday, April 6th at 7:30 p.m.
Over 175 planets have been discovered orbiting other stars. Some planets are scorching hot while others travel in strange, elongated orbits. A multitude of planets around some stars engage in harmonic resonances, with planets flinging themselves back and forth in rhythmic oscillations. All of these new planetary systems shine a spotlight back on our Solar System in comparison. Is our home planetary system a common or rare type? Are habitable worlds, such as the Earth, a rarity in the cosmos? Astronomers are just on the threshold of finding other rocky planets, and habitable worlds are rising up over the discovery horizon. Already, we can predict the diversity of environments on other worlds, and some may be very different from the conditions on Earth. Nonetheless, life may thrive despite harsh and bizarre conditions. But the search for intelligent life has come up empty, and possible reasons are emerging.
Dr. Marcy's research has focused on the detection of extrasolar planets and brown dwarfs. His team has discovered 110 extrasolar planets (as of Jan 2006), allowing study of their masses and orbits. Among the planets discovered are the first multiple-planet system, the first Saturn-mass planet, the first Neptune-mass planet, and the first transiting planet. Ongoing work is designed to study the mass distribution of planets and the eccentrcity of their orbits. The 5-year goal is to find Jupiter analogs at 5 AU. Dr. Marcy is participating in the Berkeley's new "Center for Integrative Planetary Science'', designed to study the formation, geophysics, chemistry and evolution of planets.