969 Spring 2019 The Search for Life Beyond Earth
Tuesday, 2:15–3:40, Apr. 9
Instructor: Michael E. Summers
Coordinator: Carolyn Kramer
The universe is not what we once thought. Even as recently as two decades ago we were still wondering if the Earth was unique in the entire universe in having the right ingredients, such as water and carbon compounds, that are required to support life as we know it. However, over the past decade we have discovered thousands of new worlds, many Earth-like, that have environments that appear conducive for life and that have the requirements for life in abundance. And it seems that just about every week scientists are making astonishing new discoveries which reveal a universe more complex, and filled with more unexpected objects, places, and events, than we could ever have predicted—many of which have a bearing on the question of life elsewhere. This presentation will address some recent discoveries and what they might mean for the possibility of life beyond Earth.
Michael Summers, George Mason University professor of planetary science and astronomy, is a planetary scientist who studies the composition and evolution of planets and their atmospheres. His research has considered many of the planets and moons in our solar system, including the Earth, as well as planets that orbit distant stars. Summers has participated in a variety of NASA rocket, space shuttle, satellite, and deep space robotic missions to other planets. More recently, he is a science team member and mission co-investigator on the NASA/New Horizons Spacecraft Mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.