PIONEER SCIENTIST IN PLANET DETECTION TO SPEAK SEPT. 23

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SEPTEMBER 2, 2016

JAMESTOWN, N.C. — Guilford Technical Community College’s Cline Observatory and the GTCC Foundation will present the 2016 Jo Cline Astronomy Lecture, “How to Find an Inhabited Exoplanet,” by Dr. David Charbonneau 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 23 in the Joseph S. Koury Hospitality Center auditorium on GTCC’s Jamestown Campus, 601 E. Main St., Jamestown. The lecture is free and open to the public. Cline Observatory will be open for viewing after the talk, weather permitting.

Over the past two decades, astronomers have discovered thousands of planet candidates around other stars. The recent announcement of an Earth-mass planet in the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to our solar system, highlights the fact that these other solar systems are common. Join us as one of the pioneering scientists in the field of exoplanet detection and characterizations shares the details of this exciting research.

For more information about GTCC’s Cline Observatory, contact Tom English at 336-334-4822, ext. 50023 or trenglish@gtcc.edu.

About the speaker: Dr. Charbonneau completed his Ph.D. at Harvard University in 2001 and spent three years as the Millikan Postdoctoral Fellow at the California Institute of Technology before returning to Harvard to teach astronomy. Charbonneau’s research focuses on the discovery and characterization of planets orbiting other stars with the ultimate goal of identifying inhabited worlds.

Charbonneau was the first to observe a planet eclipse its parent star. He did this by using a method known as “transits,” which is now the means by which most planets outside the solar system have been identified. He also developed the first methods which astronomers use to study the atmospheres of these distant worlds. Currently, Charbonneau directs the MEarth Project, which aims to find the first habitable exoplanet that can be searched for the chemical signatures of life, as well as the Aliens Earths Initiative, an interdisciplinary collaboration that develops the tools with which to undertake that characterization. He was a member of the NASA Kepler Mission, and he is a co-investigator in the upcoming NASA TESS Mission, scheduled for launch in 2017.

About the talk: The NASA Kepler Mission taught us that Earth-sized planets are a commonplace throughout the Galaxy. But did life take root on any of these distant worlds? Using upcoming large telescopes, astronomers will search the atmospheres of Earth-like planets for the telltale chemical fingerprints of life. For more information about Charbonneau and his projects, visit: https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/~dcharbon/Site/Welcome.html.

About the Jo Cline Astronomy Lecture Series:  To commemorate the opening of Cline Observatory in October 1997, the observatory offers a free public lecture each fall by a notable astronomical researcher. The first lecture was given at the observatory’s dedication by UNC-Chapel Hill astronomer Bruce Carney, and in the years since, the observatory has brought some of the top researchers in the field to GTCC to share the wonders of the cosmos. Topics have spanned the universe, from solar system, to galaxies, to great observatories, to cosmology. The 2016 lecture is our 20th edition.

The fall public lecture at GTCC is dedicated to the memory of Jo Cline, who passed away in 2015. Jo and her husband Don were instrumental in making the observatory and its programs possible, and they could always be found in the front row of all the astronomy lectures.

Guilford Technical Community College is the fourth largest of 58 institutions in the NC Community College System. GTCC serves more than 40,000 students annually from five campuses and a Small Business Center. Learn more at www.gtcc.edu.

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— Jana Carver