976 Winter 2020 The Search for Life Beyond Earth
Wednesday, 2:15–3:40, Feb. 19
Rose Gallery at Reston Community Center, Lake Anne
Instructor: Michael E. Summers
Coordinator: Carolyn Kramer
The universe is not what we once thought it was. Even as recently as two decades ago we were wondering if the Earth was unique in the 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 to life and that have the requirements for life in abundance. It seems like just about every week scientists are making astonishing new discoveries that reveal a universe more complex and filled with more unexpected objects, places, and events—many of which have a bearing on the question of life elsewhere—than we could ever have predicted. In this presentation, the instructor will discuss 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 covered 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 serves as a science team member and mission co-investigator on the NASA New Horizons Spacecraft Mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.