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Public Lecture on Discovery of Planets Set for February 28

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Alexander Wolszczan, Evan Pugh Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State and the discoverer of the first planets ever found outside our solar system, will present a free public lecture titled, "The First Extrasolar Planets: Behind the Scenes of Discovery" at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 28, in 101 Thomas Building on Penn State's University Park Campus. Wolszczan's discovery and the following frenzy by other astronomers that resulted in detections of numerous giant planets around Sun-like stars, have dramatically broadened the understanding of planetary formation and improved the odds for encountering extraterrestrial life. His lecture will recount the story of pulsar planets, using as illustrations unpublished materials that documented the path to this discovery.

Wolszczan has received numerous awards for his research work, including the Commander Cross of the Order of Merit from the President of Poland in 1997, both the Casimir Funk Natural Sciences Award from the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in America and the Beatrice M. Tinsley award from the American Astronomical Society in 1996, the Penn State Faculty Scholar Medal for Outstanding Achievement in 1994, the Popular Science Grand Award for "Best of What's New" in 1994, the Alfred Jurzykowski Foundation award in 1993, and the Annual Award of the Foundation for Polish Science in 1992.

Wolszczan's lecture is part of a series of lectures hosted by the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and largely funded by the The Ronald M. and Susan J Friedman Outreach Fund in Astronomy. Mr. Friedman is a member of the department's Board of Visitors. There will be an opportunity to meet with Dr. Wolszczan and faculty members from the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics following the lecture.


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