An Infinity of Worlds: Planets and the Search for Life Winter 2022

Class Details

Less than a generation ago, we wondered, as we had for millions of years before, whether there were any other planets at all. Now, we are privileged to be in the first generation of humans to know that many of the points of light dusting our night sky are host to orbiting worlds, some of which may be like our Earth. In this course, we will explore the techniques that are being used to discover these new worlds. We will make our own contributions to this great age of discovery, by using NASA spacecraft data to search for new planets. This course, aimed at non-majors, will deal with the science of planet hunting, the astounding diversity of planets known to exist, the emerging science of astrobiology, and the enduring question of “are we alone?” through works of science fiction and cutting-edge research.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 20
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: 10-page paper
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: If overenrolled, preference will be given to first-years and sophomores
Unit Notes: Rob Wittenmyer '98 is Professor of astrophysics at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia. He is a veteran planet hunter with more than 85 published planet discoveries and is the Chief Investigator of the Minerva-Australis observatory which is NASA's key Southern ground support for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite.
Materials/Lab Fee: none

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