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:

Spring 2021 Lecture Series

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, our Spring 2021 Lecture Series will be online over Zoom. On lecture nights, the lecture can be watched from the following link: 

Zoom

Meeting ID: 931 5114 1571
Password: Fuertes

Upcoming Lectures

Tension in the Cosmos: How Fast is the Universe Expanding Today?

Professor Michael Niemack, Department of Physics, Cornell University

April 2nd, 2021

Recent measurements of the cosmic microwave background (the remnant light from the Big Bang) suggest the Universe is expanding slower than measurements of supernova and other more “local” sources. These differing measurements of the Hubble expansion constant could indicate that a more complex model is needed to describe our Universe or could be due to a problem with one or more of the measurements themselves. We will discuss our current dark energy and dark matter dominated cosmological model as well as recent measurements from the Atacama Cosmology Telescope and other observatories that have contributed to this tension in our cosmological model. We will also briefly describe next generation observatories including the CCAT Observatory and Simons Observatory that will help address these questions in the future.

Past Lectures

Exoplanets and the Search for Habitable Worlds

Postdoctoral Fellow Jayesh Goyal, Department of Astronomy, Cornell University

March 26th, 2021

For centuries, humans have wondered about the existence of planets around stars, other than our own Sun. However, for the first time in human history we have the capability not just to find, but also to characterize these far away worlds, termed as “Exoplanets". In this talk Dr. Goyal will show the astonishing variety of exoplanets that have been discovered and techniques used to find them. He will discuss how we study exoplanet atmospheres using the combination of remote sensing observations, 1D and 3D atmospheric models, retrieval techniques and thereby characterize them. Dr. Goyal will also briefly discuss how modeling the atmospheres of exoplanets from first principles, aid in-depth understanding of different processes, in the past as well as present Earth.  Finally, he will show our approach to answer one of the most fundamental questions of humanity, Are we alone in this Universe?

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Cornell Reaches New Heights: Building a Telescope at 18,400 Feet

Professor Martha Haynes, Department of Astronomy, Cornell University

December 11th, 2020

Cornell University is the major partner in an international collaboration establishing the CCAT Observatory at 5600 meters (18,400 feet) elevation on Cerro Chajnantor in the Atacama region of northern Chile that will host the Fred Young Submillimeter Telescope (FYST), named for Fred M. Young ’64, M.Engr. ’66, MBA ’66. The FYST will be a 6-meter diameter telescope designed to operate at submillimeter to millimeter wavelengths and capable of mapping the sky very rapidly and efficiently. This talk will give an overview of the observatory, the telescope and the forefront science to be done with it.

The New Science of Gravitational Wave Astronomy

Professor Sean McWilliams, Department of Physics and Astronomy, West Virginia University

December 4th, 2020

Prof. McWilliams will discuss the recent history of the birth of this new field of observational astronomy that leverages gravitational waves, which are an extraordinary prediction of Einstein’s theory that we are now regularly observing for the first time. He will highlight some of the most exciting discoveries that this field has made possible, and will describe our plans and hopes for the future of the field.

(Image Credit: NASA)

Pulsars: Timekeepers of the Cosmos

Professor Maura McLaughlin, Department of Physics and Astronomy, West Virginia University

November 20th, 2020

(Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

Collisions of Black Holes and Neutron Stars

Professor Zach Etienne, Department of Physics and Astronomy, West Virginia University

October 16th, 2020

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A Space-Based Physics Lab: Probing Neutron Star Physics & Gravitational Waves with Millisecond Pulsar Timing

Einstein Postdoctoral Fellow Thankful Cromartie, Cornell University

October 9th, 2020

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How Do Galaxies Get Their Gas?

Professor D.J. Pisano, Department of Physics and Astronomy, West Virginia University

October 2nd, 2020

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Fast Radio Bursts: An Evolving Cosmic Mystery

Professor Duncan Lorimer, Department of Physics and Astronomy, West Virginia University

September 18th, 2020

Fast Radio Bursts are millisecond-duration pulses of unknown origin that were discovered by an undergraduate student at West Virginia University in 2007. A decade on, with over 100 further bursts currently known, fast radio bursts remain enigmatic sources which parallel the early days of gamma-ray burst astronomy in the early 1970s. I will tell the story of their discovery, summarize what we know about them so far, describe the science opportunities these bursts present, and make predictions for what we might learn in the next decade.

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How to Search for Dark Matter

Andre Frankenthal, PhD Candidate, Dept of Physics, Cornell University

September 13, 2019

What is dark matter? Despite decades of intense effort, we still have not found direct evidence for it, apart from its inferred gravitational presence. Dark matter constitutes about a quarter of the universe energy content and yet we have few clues about what it is made of. In this talk, Andre will describe the broad and active program currently underway to search for direct evidence of dark matter. This program encompasses diverse and complementary experimental techniques, theoretical models, and simulation paradigms. We are looking for dark matter everywhere: in the skies, in the laboratory, and on the planet – so far, with no luck. In this context, he will introduce his work in searching for dark matter using particle accelerators, which is part of a new front of theoretical and experimental efforts with potential to help us uncover this ever-growing mystery.

(Image Credit: Tom Abel & Ralf Kaehler (KIPAC, SLAC), AMNH)

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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?”.

Apollo 8: First Humans to Leave Earth, Was It a Big Gamble or a No-Brainer? [History Lecture]

Dr. Peter Thomas, Visiting Scientist, Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, Astronomy Department, Cornell University

March 22, 2019

The talk will review some of the context and development of the Apollo 8 mission which was the first human visit to another world.  As part of the “space race” the flight required decisions that in current context would be rash, and even then caused great concern.

Studying Star Formation In The Early Universe: An Infrared Perspective

Cody Lamarche, 6th year PhD candidate, Astronomy Department, Cornell University

March 15, 2019

Cody Lamarche will be talking about his work using fine-structure spectral lines in the far-infrared to investigate the properties of the early universe, including star formation, active galactic nuclei, and the interstellar medium.

(Image Credit: Madau & Dickinson (2014))

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Searching for Intelligent Life in Cornell Classrooms and Beyond

Jack Madden, 4th year PhD candidate, Carl Sagan Institute, Cornell University

November 09, 2018

Jack Madden will discuss several of his research projects using computer models to predict the habitability of exoplanets, as well as measure learning of students learning astronomy using virtual reality.

(Image Credit: Jack Madden)

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Cornell's Submillimeter/Millimeter Telescope CCAT-Prime: Unveiling the Secrets of the Early Universe and the History of Star and Galaxy Formation in the Universe (Past Lecture)

Dr. Thomas Nikola, Cornell Research Associate

May 11, 2018

CCAT-Prime is a 6-meter class telescope for submillimeter and millimeter astronomical observations that is being built in northern Chile by an international collaboration under the leadership of Cornell. The telescope will be equipped with several instruments that employ the most advanced submillimeter and millimeter detector technology. The telescope will study the history of the early Universe, and Research Associate Thomas Nikola will present on the instruments that his team is developing, as well as the scientific motivation for building the telescope.

(Image Credit: Dr. Thomas Nikola)

The Search for Life Begins at Home: Using Our Pale Blue Dot to Find Others (Past Lecture)

Dr. Jack O'Malley-James, Carl Sagan Institute, Cornell Research Associate

March 23, 2018

Astronomers have now found the first habitable rocky worlds around other stars – worlds that could have just the right temperatures to support life. So what happens next? To find out if these habitable worlds are inhabited, we need to know the global effects life can have on a planet, and crucially, which of those effects we could observe with our telescopes. We can gain some clues by looking at what life on Earth does today, but, so far, the planets we have found seem to have dramatically different environments compared to the modern day Earth. However, if we look millions, or even billions of years back through time, we start to find overlaps between conditions on these worlds and our own. The further back in time we look, the more alien our planet becomes. Strange environments, climates and weird forms of ancient life serve as perfect tools for figuring out many more of the unique “fingerprints” biology can leave behind on a planet for us to find. All of this takes us a step closer to finding extraterrestrial life – if it is there – on the un-Earth-like worlds around our nearest stars. In this talk Dr. O'Malley-James will discuss how we do this, what we might find, and what the future has in store for our quest to find other Earths.

(Image Credit: Dr. O"Malley-James)

Sixth Annual Yuri's Night Lecture: Interstellar Probes: How to Fly By Proxima Centauri in Your Lifetine

Dr. Mason Alan Peck, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Cornell Associate Professor

April 20, 2018

Several Cornellians advise the Breakthrough Starshot project, an audacious attempt to fly a tiny probe--1 to 2 grams--to our nearest star.  This demanding mission requires technologies that don't exist yet but which we hope will be in place in 20 years' time, when we anticipate the probe will launch.  If successful, this lightweight spacecraft will reach 20% light speed after a few minutes' thrust from a high-power laser. Then, some 21 years after launch, it will fly past Proxima B and transmits a few bits of data back to Earth: spectral information from an image? Radiation measurements? Confirmation of the presence or absence of radio communications near the planet?  This talk describes the technical challenges and speculates about other missions we could undertake if we had only 1% of the required capability, such as reaching Mars in a day and spanning our solar system in only 8 weeks.

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Saturn's system at the end of Cassini (Past Lecture)

Jonathan Lunine, David C. Duncan Professor of Astronomy

October 27, 2017

The Cassini spacecraft ended its 13 year odyssey in the Saturn system on September 15 with a fiery burnup in Saturn's atmosphere. What did Cassini discover during its time there, and especially what did it learn in the closing months of the mission? The answer is -- "an amazing amount", Professor Lunine will describe some of the highlights.

(Image Credit: NASA)

Exploring the Origins of the Universe with the CCAT-prime Telescope (Past Lecture)

Dr. Martha Haynes, Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy

November 10, 2017

The Universe as we know it began some 13.8 billion years ago in the event known as the "Big Bang". Cosmologists today use forefront telescopes, instruments and techniques to try to trace the history of cosmic expansion, especially in the earliest times before the first stars, galaxies and supermassive black holes formed. In this talk, she will discuss how Cornell scientists are laying the groundwork for exploring early epochs in cosmic history by building a novel-design submillimeter telescope at an exceptional site in the Atacama region of northern Chile.

(Image Credit: ESA)

A Century of Observing at Fuertes [Centenninal Lecture]

Professor Phil Nicholson, Cornell Astronomy Department & Mike Roman, Cornell Alumnus

November 17, 2017

For the hundredth anniversary of the Fuertes Professor Phil Nicolson and Alumnus Mike Roman will give a special lecture highlighting the observatory's history and its long term impact at Cornell.  Instead of being held in the observatory classroom, this special lecture will be held at the Appel Service Center on north campus, across from Fuertes Observatory.

Black Holes on the Horizon: From Astronomy to Quantum Mechanics (Past Lecture)

Tom Hartman, Cornell Assistant Professor of Physics

December 01, 2017

Black holes are the densest, darkest objects in the universe, and their motion powers the brightest galaxies in the sky. They also provide a theoretical window into nature at the tiniest subatomic distances, by pushing the extremes of quantum mechanics, particle physics, and gravitation. In this talk, Professor Hartman will describe how black holes set fundamental limits on physical laws, from the exotic realm of quantum gravity to the everyday experience of boiling water.

(Image Credit: NASA)

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Fast Radio Bursts: Mysterious Flashes from the Distant Universe (Past Lecture)

Dr. Shami Chatterjee, Cornell Astronomy Senior Research Associate

March 17, 2017

With recent strides in radio telescope sensitivity and computational capacity, astronomers have discovered “fast radio bursts”, dispersed millisecond-long flashes of radio waves that appear to come from random directions in the sky.  Recently, we have caught one in the act and identified exactly where it came from, and the answer defies all expectations, because the source appears to be two and a half billion light years away. What mechanism could produce flashes so bright that they are detectable across the universe, and yet so common that there are five to ten thousand of these bursts all over the sky each and every day? Astronomers are in hot pursuit.

Our Search for Life Beyond the Solar System (Past Lecture)

Dr. Siddharth Hegde, Cornell Astronomy/Carl Sagan Institute

March 24, 2017

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 abound in our galaxy with many of them 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: Hegde/Max Planck Institute)

Fifth Annual Yuri's Night Lecture: "Thousands of New Worlds" (Past Lecture)

Dr. Lisa Kaltenegger, Cornell Prof. of Astronomy/Director of the Carl Sagan Institute

April 14, 2017

The detection of exoplanets orbiting other stars has revolutionized our view of our place in the universe. First results suggest that it is teeming with a fascinating diversity of rocky planets including those in the Habitable Zone. The next generation of telescopes will be able to peer into the atmospheres of rocky planets and give us a glimpse into other worlds. Our own planet and its wide range of biota serves as a Rosetta stone for how we could detect habitability and signs of life on exoplanets. For the first time in human history we have developed the technology to detect potential habitable worlds.

(Image Credit: JPL/NASA)

The Habitable Zone: Extensions in Time and Space (Past Lecture)

Dr. Ramses Ramirez, Cornell Astronomy/Carl Sagan Institute

April 21, 2017

The habitable zone is the circular region around a star in which liquid water could exist on the surface of a rocky planet. Previously established definitions of the habitable zone have adopted an Earth-centered approach, assuming that the main-sequence phase of stellar evolution, and the most common greenhouse gases on our planet - carbon dioxide and water vapor - are the established norms of habitability throughout the cosmos. Here, I argue that the Earth-centered approach can be causing us to overlook many potentially habitable planets on our target list. Not only can habitable worlds exist during other phases of stellar evolution, but other greenhouse gases, such as hydrogen, can significantly extend the width of the traditional habitable zone. I also discuss the potential habitability of Proxima Centauri b and the TRAPPIST-1 planets within the context of my new habitable zone definitions.

(Image Credit: NASA)

Ocean Worlds of the Outer Solar System: Life as we know it or life as we don’t? (Past Lecture)

Dr. Alexander Hayes, Cornell Professor of Astronomy

April 28, 2017

Solar System Exploration stands on the verge of profound discovery, with the opportunity to look for the signs of life in the Ocean Worlds of the outer solar system within the next few decades. We will review recent discoveries at Europa, Enceladus, and Titan to explain why these moons may represent the best places to look for life outside of Earth.

(Image Credit: NASA)

Juno: Latest Results from Inside Jupiter (Past Lecture)

Dr. Jonathan Lunine, David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences

May 12, 2017

Juno is the first solar-powered spacecraft to orbit and collect data at a giant planet. In orbit around Jupiter since July 2016, Juno has already begun to yield surprises about the solar system’s largest planet. Prof. Lunine will describe why we want to explore Jupiter, what Juno is finding, and the unique challenges of observing with a spinning solar-powered spacecraft.

(Image Credit: NASA)

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Extreme Planetary Systems (Past Lecture)

Dong Lai, Professor of Astronomy

March 04, 2016

Professor Dong Lai joined the Cornell Astronomy faculty in the Fall of 1997 after three years as apostdoctoral fellow at Caltech. He has held visiting positions atthe Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, Institute for Advanced Study, Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, National Astronomical Observatory of China, etc. On Friday, March 4th, he discussed "Extreme Planetary Systems" at Fuertes:

 

"Observations over the last decade have revealed exoplanetary systems that are completely different from our own Solar System. These extreme planetary systems are changing our view of planetary formation. Professor Lai focused on hot Jupiters, giant planets in close orbits around their host stars (period about 5 days). He also discussed planets around binary stars ('Tatooine')."

 

(Image Credit: NASA)

The Whirlpool, The Cartwheel and the Mice: The Intriguing Lives of Galaxies (Past Lecture)

March 11, 2016

Galaxies come in a remarkable variety of shapes and sizes; some are red and some are blue. Exotic names describe some of them: the "Cigar"; the "Black-Eye"; the "Antennae". Additionally, while some galaxies inhabit the rich clusters of galaxies and have many thousands of neighbors, others exist in virtual isolation. During the course of their lifetimes, galaxies in such different environments are subjected to very a variety of interactions with their surroundings, sometimes triggering episodes of furious star formation or feeding their voracious central supermassive black holes. In this talk, we will discuss what the appearance of galaxies today can teach us about "extragalactic sociology": how their lives are affected by their environments.

(Image Credit: NASA)

Ancient Astronomy in Scotland and Brittany (Past Lecture)

Phil Nicholson, Professor of Astronomy

March 18, 2016

Professor Phil Nicholson researches the orbital dynamics of planetary ring systems and natural satellites, as well as infrared observational studies of planets, their satellites, and their rings. He is the editor-in-chief of the planetary science journal, Icarus, and has served on the Committees on Planetary and Lunar Exploration and on Astronomy and Astrophysics of the National Research Council, time assignment committees for the Kuiper Airborne Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope, and scientific advisory committees for Arecibo and IPAC.

 

Professor Nicholson is very interested in the history of astronomy, and how the people of ancient world used tools to understand the universe around them. On Friday, March 18th, he will discuss the history of Bronze Age astronomy in the Celtic World. 

 

(Image Credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Alien Ocean: New Paths to Europa (Past Lecture)

Mason Peck, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

April 08, 2016

Join us for our fourth annual Yuri's Night Event at 7:30pm at Fuertes, celebrating human spaceflight and space exploration. The event's talk will be given by Professor Mason Peck, former Chief Technologist at NASA:

 

Where would you send a probe to search for life in the solar system? Probably somewhere with a warm water ocean. It turns out that Earth is not the only such place. There’s Europa, Jupiter’s icy moon that has more than double Earth’s water. This talk will describe NASA’s plans for a robotic Europa mission, which will conduct detailed reconnaissance during a number of close flybys in the 2020s to determine whether or not the conditions there are suitable for life as we understand it. It will use ice-penetrating radar and magnetometers to understand the depth and salinity of the ocean. And it will look at the heat signatures from plumes erupting from the surface, if they can be found. We’ll also talk about some more speculative mission concepts, some of which are being developed at Cornell: among them, a soft robotic rover that could slither through the ice and jet around underwater like a squid, and a soda-bottle-size spacecraft carrying aluminum nanoparticles that would explosively react with ice and water on impact, creating a plume to be analyzed by a satellite overhead.

Image Credit: NASA/Cornell

 

NASA's Cassini Spacecraft Views the Active Moon Enceladus (Past Lecture)

Dr. Paul Helfenstein, Cornell Astronomy Senior Research Associate

April 15, 2016

Join us in the Fuertes Observatory classroom at 7:30pm this Friday for a lecture by Dr. Paul Helfenstein titled NASA's Cassini Spacecraft Views the Active Moon Enceladus. NASA's Cassini spacecraft has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004, and has taken astonishing images of the Saturnian system; many scientific discoveries have been made by the orbiter. Dr. Helfenstein is a member of the Cassini Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) Team, and will present a review of Cassini imaging camera results that show the unique geology and geyser activity on Enceladus. Enceladus likely has a liquid water ocean beneath its icy surface, and is therefore one of the best candidates to find alien life in the Solar System. 

(Image Credit: NASA/JPL)

 

 

 

The Search for Life on Europa and Enceladus (Past Lecture)

Jonathan Lunine, David C. Duncan Professor of Astronomy

April 29, 2016

Professor Lunine is interested in how planets form and evolve, what processes maintain and establish habitability, and what kinds of exotic environments (methane lakes, etc.) might host a kind of chemistry sophisticated enough to be called "life".  He pursues these interests through theoretical modeling and participation in spacecraft missions.  He works with the radar and other instruments on Cassini, is co-investigator on the Juno mission launched in 2011 to Jupiter and on the near-infrared spectrometer under development for the Europa Multiple Flyby mission. He is on the science team for the James Webb Space Telescope, focusing on characterization of extrasolar planets and Kuiper Belt objects. Lunine is currently PI for a proposed mission to look for signs of life in Saturn's moon Enceladus, and has contributed to concept studies for a wide range of planetary and exoplanetary missions.

(Image Credit: NASA)

Exoplanet Habitable Zones: An Overview of the "Goldilocks Zone" (Past Lecture)

Dr. Ramses Ramirez, Carl Sagan Institute Research Associate

November 04, 2016

Over the past two decades, thousands of exoplanets (planets orbiting stars other than our Sun) have been discovered by ground-based telescopes and space-telescopes (most famously the Kepler Space Telescope). Better technology is allowing astronomers to detect smaller and more extreme exoplanets than ever before, and the diversity of the planets discovered thus far is astonishing. Some of the most exciting findings have been the discovery of several rocky, "Earth-like" planets in the Habitable ("Goldilocks") Zones of their parent stars (i.e. ability for liquid water to exist on the surface). On November 4th in the Fuertes Observatory Classroom, Dr. Ramirez from Cornell's Carl Sagan Institute will discuss many of the intriguing planets found in the Habitable Zone, how they are being studied, and the prospect of possibly finding alien life on a planet light years away from the Earth.

(Image Credit: NASA)

What Cassini Has Taught Us About Saturn's Rings (Past Lecture)

Professor Phil Nicholson, Cornell Astronomy Department

November 11, 2016

Due to its spectacular ring system, Saturn is probably the most iconic planet in the solar system, and is absolutely breathtaking when viewed through a modest sized telescope on a still night. Galileo first saw the planet and its rings through his small telescope in 1610, and described the planet as having "ears". As technology and our understanding of physics improved, Saturn's rings continued to perplex astronomers, and the system is still one of the most studied phenomena in the solar system. Launched in 1997, NASA's Cassini Spacecraft arrived at the Saturn system in 2004. Over the past decade, Cassini has returned a plethora of data on Saturn, its remarkable moons, and the spectacularly complex rings. On November 11th in the Fuertes Classroom, Professor Phil Nicholson will discuss many of the fascinating things that Cassini has discovered about the ring system, and how it has changed our understanding of how planetary ring systems form and evolve. 

(Image Credit: NASA)

The Search for Life in Extreme Exoplanetary Environments (Past Lecture)

Dr. Siddharth Hegde, Carl Sagan Institute Research Associate

December 02, 2016

Are we alone? Or are there other worlds out there that can support life? The field of exoplanet research has seen unprecedented progress over the last decade with over two thousand planets being detected outside our Solar System. Further more, this number is expected to rise exponentially over the next few years. Recent advances on this front suggest that small, Earth-mass, planets are abound in our galaxy with many of them 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 more common than previously thought. 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: NASA)

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TBD

Click on the video to see the recorded lecture!