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Free Public Lecture on Habitable Planets Set for July 9

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June 17, 1999 -- A free public lecture titled "Habitable Planets" will be given at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 9 in 101 Thomas Building on the Penn State University Park Campus by Darren Williams, assistant professor of physics at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.  The lecture will be preceded by a 30-minute astronomical slide show beginning at 7:00 and will be followed by observing with telescopes on the roof of Davey Laboratory, with the assistance of the Penn State Astronomy Club.

"Humans have long wondered about the origins of themselves and of the universe and we carry with us these same contemplations today," Williams comments. "With the aid of telescopes, satellites, and deep-space probes, we have learned much about the planet we inhabit and its neighbors.  But we still want to know whether there are other planets like Earth and whether they are habitable; that is, whether they can and do support life," he adds.

Williams will address these and other questions, and will examine factors such as a habitable planet's distance from its star, presence of an atmosphere, stability of orbit, and spin, which affect whether it is suitable for life. Williams also will discuss the habitability of Earth and the probable longevity of its terrestrial biosphere.

Williams received his doctoral degree in astronomy at the Penn State University Park campus in 1998.Ý While a graduate student in the department of astronomy and astrophysics, he organized outreach programs for elementary students and the general public.

Williams' lecture is part of a series hosted by the Penn State Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and largely funded by The Ronald M. and Susan J. Friedman Outreach Fund in Astronomy. Mr. Friedman is a member of the department's Board of Visitors.

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For access assistance, contact the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at 814-865-0418
For more information, contact: Darren Williams at 814-898-6008 (phone) or dmw145@psu.edu (e-mail)
Barbara K. Kennedy at  814-863-4682 (phone) or science@psu.edu (e-mail)

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