Profs and Pints Richmond presents: “The Search for Alien Worlds,” on the hunt for Earth-like planets beyond our solar system, with Matthew Pryal, assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Virginia and teacher of UVA’s popular “Alien Worlds” course.
Earth is the only place in the universe that we currently know can harbor life. But just how unique is our home?
Learn about the search for alien worlds with Matthew Pryal, an astronomer who earns rave reviews from UVA students for the courses he teaches on extrasolar planets and other celestial bodies and phenomena.
He’ll discuss the challenges of finding Earth-like planets and our best hopes for discovering life elsewhere. You’ll learn about the breakthroughs we've made in our understanding of exoplanets, including new knowledge about their compositions and the compositions of their atmospheres, and how common Earth-like planets are among them.
Before 1992, the only planets that we knew of were those that existed within our own solar system. The handful of planets that astronomers found over the next couple of years all shared the same odd trait: They shouldn’t have existed at all according to our best theories at the time.
These initial discoveries sparked a drive to catalog as many planets as possible, and since then more than 5,000 planets have been discovered and analyzed. Professor Pryal will discuss what we have learned about them. He’ll describe how current space observatories like the James Webb Space Telescope and the Kepler and TESS satellites are contributing to the search.
You’ll emerge from the talk with a better sense of what the universe holds. You might even feel lucky to be living on a planet where you can attend Profs and Pints. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)
Image: Exoplanets observed by the NASA / European Space Agency Hubble Space Telescope. (NASA/ESA photo.)