Presentation on Kepler’s search for Earth-like planets.

Dani Weigand

The search for Earth-like planets in our galaxy comes closer to Earth with a presentation at Clark Planetarium on NASA’s Kepler mission. On Monday, Feb. 8, 2010, the planetarium will host special guest Dr. Jason Steffen of the Fermilab Center for Particle Astrophysics, who will present key information on the mission’s findings to date.

Kepler was launched on March 7, 2009 to monitor over 145,000 stars in the constellation Cygnus. Analysis of fluctuations the brightness of these stars will help identify extrasolar planets and determine how many Earth-sized planets are in or near the habitable zone of their star.

Dr. Steffen will discuss the technology and science of the Kepler mission and explain how the mission helps to address questions about how our Earth fits among the population of planets in our galaxy. He will also explain how Kepler’s findings will pave the way for future research missions to look for signs of life on other planets. Following his presentation, audiences will see Extreme Planets, an original Clark Planetarium production, featuring the composition and significance of extrasolar planets to the field of astronomy.

Dr. Steffen currently resides in Illinois, but has lived in Utah. He graduated from Weber State University in 2000 and returns to the area for visits. “Since I have a connection to the Wasatch Front, I’m glad to have the 
opportunity to present this information to the residents of Salt Lake 
City. Most of the scientific community that studies exoplanets is located 
on the coasts and near major observatories.  This will be an 
opportunity for residents to hear what is happening in an important field that has fewer direct ties to Utah,” he said.

“The discovery of other Earth-like planets in our galaxy is a fascinating topic of discussion,” said Clark Planetarium Director, Seth Jarvis. “We’re delighted to offer the public an opportunity to learn about Kepler’s findings first-hand from someone who is directly involved at the cutting edge of this research.”

Clark Planetarium’s mission is to create and present stimulating educational programs that effectively share astronomy and space exploration information with Salt Lake County residents, Utah students, educators and families and visitors from around the country and the world. Additional information on this event can be found on the Clark Planetarium website.

Tickets are $1 at the planetarium’s ticket desk or $2 online.

Due to the technical nature of this presentation, it is not recommended that children under 8 years of age attend.

Date: Feb. 8, 2010

Time: 7 – 9 p.m.

Location: Hansen Dome Theatre

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