Renowned planet hunter Geoffrey Marcy to speak at UCSC

Renowned planet hunter Geoffrey Marcy, professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, will give the Spring Halliday Lecture at UC Santa Cruz on Wednesday, May 19, at 8 p.m. Marcy will discuss "Extrasolar Planets and the Prospects for Life in the Universe" in his talk, which will take place in Classroom Unit 2 on the UCSC campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Marcy leads the world's most prolific team of planet hunters, having discovered more than 70 of the roughly 100 currently known extrasolar planets (planets outside our solar system). His team includes UCSC astronomer Steven Vogt, who was Marcy's adviser when he earned his Ph.D. at UCSC in 1982.

The dozens of new worlds discovered around nearby stars in the past eight years display a diversity of characteristics and environments far beyond scientists' expectations. The planets' unexpected properties, together with the latest discoveries in biology here on Earth, cast a new light on the prospects for both primitive and intelligent life in the universe, Marcy says.

Marcy's research has focused on the detection of extrasolar planets and brown dwarfs. The discoveries by Marcy and his team have allowed astronomers to study the masses, radii, and orbits of a diverse array of extrasolar planets. Among these planets are the first multiple-planet solar system besides our own, the first Saturn-like planets, and the first transiting planet (passing in front of its star, producing a slight dimming effect detectable from Earth).

In addition to his position on the UC Berkeley faculty, Marcy is an adjunct professor of physics and astronomy at San Francisco State University. His ongoing research focuses on the mass distribution of planets and the eccentricity of their orbits. Marcy is the director of Berkeley's new Center for Integrative Planetary Science, a research unit formed to study the formation, geophysics, chemistry, and evolution of planets. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the recipient of numerous awards, including Discover magazine's Space Scientist of the Year in 2003, the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, the Carl Sagan Award, the Beatrice Tinsley Prize, and the Henry Draper Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.

Marcy's talk is the fourth Halliday Lecture, a public lecture series sponsored by the UCSC Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the UC Observatories/Lick Observatory. The Halliday Lecture Series is made possible through the generous support of John Halliday to promote public awareness and appreciation for astronomy and astrophysics.

For more information about the lecture, contact the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at (831) 459-3581.