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Portugal Award lecture by Jon Pedicino in Crescent City
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Oct 7, 2011 - 1:00:00 PM

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CR presents Portugal Award lecture by Jon Pedicino
'Kepler: Searching for Extrasolar Planets, Looking for Earths'


College of the Redwoods Astronomy Professor Dr. Jon Pedicino will present a lecture about recent discoveries from the Kepler space telescope at the CR Del Norte Education Center in Crescent City on Friday, Oct. 7.

Pedicino's lecture, "Kepler: Searching for Extrasolar Planets, Looking for Earths," will take place in room DM29 at CR at 1 p.m. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Pedicino has taught astronomy at the CR Eureka campus for 10 years. He did his undergraduate work in physics at Dartmouth College. He holds a doctoral degree from the University of Arizona in planetary science. His doctoral research looked at the prospects for water on Mars, specifically global oceans and ice sheets. That work was combined with examining the potential for life on Mars at some point in the past. Current missions to the red planet have only heightened the prospects for life on Mars.

In 1995, astronomers, using a subtle technique applying the Doppler Effect, were able to determine what many had suspected for years. There were planets orbiting stars other than our own. These new worlds were labeled extrasolar planets or exoplanets for short. Over these last 16 years, a variety of techniques yielded hundreds of planets orbiting relatively nearby stars.

By 2010, the tally stood at over 500 exoplanets. Of those 500, most were very large planets that were very close to their parent stars, so called "Hot Jupiters." The techniques used to find these relatively subtle worlds had yet to find any definitive evidence for Earth-sized planets. Did they exist or was the Earth rarer or even unique? In late 2009, NASA launched the Kepler Space Telescope to probe for these smaller exoplanets and determine the prospects for Earth-like planets in the so called "habitable zones" around their stars.

In early 2011, the first four months of data from a planned three-year mission was released. The results were stunning, the implications astounding. What follows is a discussion of where this new field of extrasolar planetary science stands today along with the prospects for extraterrestrial life.

The College of the Redwoods Foundation Board established the Dr. Eugene Portugal Award in 1993 to honor an outstanding faculty member and to exhibit the academic and professional contributions of the CR faculty to the college and the community. Named after the college's first president, this award allows the campus community to share expertise and knowledge, provides staff development opportunities for faculty, increases the community's awareness of the college, and provides a showcase for excellence both on and off campus.

For more information, contact Crislyn Parker, Administrative Assistant to the VP of Academic Affairs, 476-4109, or email crislyn-parker@redwoods.edu
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CR Astronomy professor Jon Pedicino
CR Astronomy professor Jon Pedicino

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