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Holy Grail

Search for Earth’s twin subject of upcoming public lecture

By Kelly Foss

A woman known as the ‘astronomical Indiana Jones’ will give the 2018 Elizabeth R. Laird Lecture.

Dr. Sara Seager, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a planetary scientist and astrophysicist who grew up in Toronto.

A pioneer in the vast and unknown world of exoplanets – planets that orbit stars other than the sun – she is on a quest to find the field’s Holy Grail, the discovery of a true Earth twin.

“For thousands of years people have wondered, ‘Are there planets like Earth? Are such planets common and do any have signs of life?’ she said.

“Today astronomers are poised to answer these ancient questions, having recently found thousands of planets that orbit nearby stars, called exoplanets.”

Artists Conception of Exoplanets
Artists conception of exoplanets

Dr. Seager is one of the world’s leading experts on this search for Earth-like planets and she helps run the MIT-led NASA Explorer-class mission TESS, which is anticipated to find thousands of exoplanets.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences and a 2013 MacArthur Fellow, she was named one of Time Magazine’s 25 Most Influential in Space in 2012. Asteroid 9729 Seager is named in her honor.

Latest advances

Her public lecture, titled Exoplanets and the Search for Habitable Worlds, is hosted by the Faculty of Science and the Department of Earth Sciences. During the talk, she will share the latest advances in this revolutionary field.

It will take place Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. in the Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation, room IIC-2001. Limited free parking will be available in lot 17 and a reception will follow.

The Elizabeth R. Laird Lecture was established by a bequest from Dr. Elizabeth Laird, a prominent Canadian physicist who held posts at Yale, Cambridge, Chicago, Mount Holyoke and Western Ontario, in the first half of the 20th century.


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