Saturday June 23rd, 2012
Geoff Marcy - an astronomy professor at both UC Berkeley and at San Francisco State University. Together with his collaborators, he has discovered over 250 extrasolar planets. His research team discovered the first multiple planet system, the first Saturn-sized planet, and the first Neptune-size planet. He is a co-investigator with the NASA Kepler mission that recently announced 1230 exoplanets. His current research focuses on finding other Earth-size planets and solar systems similar to our own, and he is part of NASA’s Kepler telescope team.. Ongoing work is designed to study the sizes, occurrence frequency, chemical composition, and the orbits of Earth-size planets.
Martin Still - Kepler is NASA's Discovery mission to find Earth-sized, habitable exoplanets. The spacecraft, in an Earth-trailing orbit, yields 165,000 simultaneous light curves of Galactic and extra-Galactic sources over a 108 square degree field in the Cygnus-Lyra direction, with uninterrupted cadences of 1- and 30-minutes over a nominal mission lifetime of 3.5 years. The Kepler Guest Observer Office is tasked with maximizing the quality and depth of Kepler parallel science, exploiting the unique properties of this space-based telecope to impact multiple areas of astrophysics outside the core program of planet transits. Still began his role as Director of the Kepler Guest Observer Office in August 2009. His scientific interests lie in the study of accretion, compact binary stars, black hole physics, gamma-ray bursts and exoplanet detection and characterization.
Seth Shostak - Seth claims to have developed an interest in extraterrestrial life at the tender age of ten, when he first picked up a book about the solar system. This innocent beginning eventually led to a degree in radio astronomy, and now, as Senior Astronomer, Seth is an enthusiastic participant in the Institute’s SETI observing programs. He also heads up the International Academy of Astronautics’ SETI Permanent Committee. In addition, Seth is keen on outreach activities: interesting the public – and especially young people – in science in general, and astrobiology in particular. He’s co-authored a college textbook on astrobiology, and has written three trade books on SETI. In addition, he’s published more than 400 popular articles on science -- including regular contributions to both the Huffington Post and Discover Magazine blogs -- gives many dozens of talks annually, and is the host of the SETI Institute’s weekly science radio show, “Big Picture Science.”
Douglas Caldwell - A decade ago, astronomers could only speculate about whether planets were a happy commonplace in the universe, or distressingly rare. The discovery of hundreds of worlds around other stars has shown that planets orbit at least 5 to 10 percent of all stars. But how many of these planets are Earth-size, and possibly Earth-like? Physicist Doug Caldwell is an expert on one of the most promising schemes for finding small worlds far beyond our solar system: looking for the slight dimming of a star caused when a planet crosses between it and us.
Andrew Fraknoi - Andrew Fraknoi is the Chair of the Astronomy Department at Foothill College and Senior Educator at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. He teaches courses on "astronomy and physics for poets" to about a thousand students each year. In 2007, he was selected as the Professor of the Year for the state of California by the Carnegie Endowment for Education. He appears frequently on local and national radio, explaining astronomical developments in everyday language. His book for children, "Disney's Wonderful World of Space" was published in 2007, he is the lead author on a series of college astronomy textbooks, and he has edited two books of science and science fiction for Bantam. Asteroid 4859 has been named Asteroid Fraknoi by the International Astronomical Union in recognition of his contributions to science popularization. He currently serves as Vice-chair of the Board of Trustees of the SETI Institute.