Star Party kicks off the new year!

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Venue:CP 145 and Observing Pad

"Across A Sea of Suns: Charting Distant Worlds, Other Earths"

Dr. Steven S. Vogt, Distinguished Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics UCO/Lick Observatory U. of California at Santa Cruz

This talk will chronicle a 16-year search using the telescopes at UC's Lick and Keck Observatories to find potentially habitable Earth-like worlds around the nearest stars, worlds that our distant space faring descendants may someday travel to and ultimately inhabit. Well over 1000 planets are now known in and around our stellar neighborhood, but almost all are large gas giants like Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, and Uranus, or small hellish rocky worlds equivalent to Earth-sized glowing charcoal briquets. Few if any are likely to provide habitable conditions where life might flourish.

In the continuing push to find Earth-like worlds, our search has recently achieved a major milestone: the detection of rocky planets that are nearly Earth-sized, and that orbit in the Habitable Zone of their star. These planets are very stable places where surface water could exist in liquid form for the billions of years required for evolution to work its magic. They are a key part of the answer to the question: "Is there life elsewhere in the Universe?".

Telescopes, refreshments and astronomers will be available all evening.