Science Seminars

10/15/2015- Starshades and the Search for Life in the Universe

Speaker: Webster Cash (CU)
Date: Thursday, Oct 15, 2020
Time: 4:00 PM
Location: SPSC W120

Seminar Abstract:

The discovery of life outside the Solar System is the premier piece of exploration that can actually be addressed in the near future. The astronomy community, in just the past few years, has established that planetary environments suitable for life are common in the Universe, so we now know how and where to look for biosignatures. The New Worlds Observer is a “Lifefinder” mission concept that can be realized in the coming decade. Its goal is perform spectroscopy on 30th magnitude objects in the visible band just 0.05 arcseconds from 5th magnitude stars. It features a “Hubble Class” telescope flying about 80,000km from a starshade that blots out the central star. With this powerful combination of existing technologies, it will be possible to completely map hundreds of nearby planetary systems, identifying most of the major planets. Immediate spectroscopy of the detected bodies will allow assessment of their true natures. The presence or absence of water lines and other biomarkers like free O2 will open the serious search for simple life in the Universe.