Fuertes Observatory Lecture Series

Public lectures at the Fuertes Observatory take place at 7:30pm in the observatory classroom (unless specified). Lectures are usually given several times a semester by Cornell faculty, researchers, and students studying astronomy. Each lecture is followed by an Open House Night, weather permitting. See the list of upcoming lectures below:

Fall 2019 Lecture Series

The Search for a Second Earth

Dr. Siddharth Hegde, Carl Sagan Institute Research Associate

May 03, 2019

Are we alone? Or are there other worlds out there, like the Earth, that can support life? The field of exoplanet research has seen unprecedented progress over the last decade with over 3500 planets now been detected outside our Solar System. Further more, this number is expected to rise exponentially over the next few years with new and improved ground- and space-based telescopes set to take center-stage. Recent advances on this front suggest that small, Earth-sized, planets are abundant in our galaxy with many thought to lie in the host star’s habitable zone where the conditions on the planet are optimal to have liquid water on the surface. This realization, coupled with the ongoing discovery of new organisms on Earth in environments previously thought to be inhospitable for life, suggests that extraterrestrial life could be far more commonplace than previously imagined. In this talk, Dr. Hegde will explore some of the methods that can be used in characterizing an Earth-like planet for potential habitability and life by providing a link between geomicrobiology and observational astronomy.

Image Credit: Jack Madden

Exploring the New Frontiers of Gravitational Wave Astronomy

Professor David Chernoff, Astronomy Department, Cornell University

April 26, 2019

Gravitational waves were first directly observed in 2015 when LIGO and Virgo detected the inspiral and merger of two massive black holes. At least 8 more examples of merging black holes and 1 example of merging neutron stars have been recorded subsequently. These discoveries highlight the emergence of a new astronomical discipline, gravitational wave astronomy. The experimental confirmation of the existence of black holes, a unique prediction of Einstein's general theory of relativity, represents a home run for gravitational wave astronomy. We will review some of the history of the hunt for gravitational waves and speculate how the new discipline will help scientists explore new and otherwise inaccessible regimes of our Universe.

(Image Credit: Natinoal Science Foundation)

6th Annual Yuri's Night Lecture

Professor Nikole Lewis, Astronomy Department, Cornell University

April 12, 2019

In the past two decades we have seen rapid growth in our capabilities to detect and explore planets around other stars. Facilities like the Kepler, Spitzer, and Hubble Space Telescopes have revealed fascinating worlds that bear little resemblance to the planets in our solar system. Future facilities like the James Webb Space Telescope as well as space and ground based “life finder” missions will increase the fidelity with which we can explore these worlds along the path to answering the questions “How did we get here?” and “Are we alone?”.