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Public Astronomy Presentation on Other Worlds Set for 16 August 2010

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A free public presentation by astronomer John Johnson, an assistant professor of astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, will be given at 8:00 p.m. on Monday, 16 August 2010, in room 101 Thomas Building on the Penn State University Park campus. His talk on the study of planets in orbit around other stars is titled "Other Worlds."
16 August 2010 from 8:00 PM to 9:30 PM
101 Thomas Building
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Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
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John Johnson
John Johnson

In the years since the first extrasolar planets were discovered, our knowledge of planetary systems has grown from a sample of one -- our own solar system -- to a diverse collection of 450 planets now known to orbit other stars. To highlight some of the fascinating features of this rapidly growing collection of exoplanets, Johnson will take the audience on a tour through several representative planetary systems around nearby stars. He will present an overview of the motivations behind the study of exoplanets and the strategies that astronomers use to hunt for distant worlds. He also will discuss what the discoveries of other planets have taught us about our own origins and our place in the universe.

In addition to giving this public presentation, Johnson also will participate in a workshop titled "Astronomy of Exoplanets with Precise Radial Velocities," sponsored by the Penn State Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds, the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute, and the Penn State Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Johnson's primary research focus is on the detection and characterization of exoplanets. "Among his other contributions, John is a pioneer in the search for planets around relatively massive stars," said Jason Wright, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State and a frequent collaborator with Johnson. Wright added, "these massive stars normally rotate quickly or pulsate, making the standard technique of Doppler measurements hard to apply. John has shown how is it possible to detect planets by observing these massive stars at a later stage in their lives, during which they are more stable." In addition to papers in professional journals and conferences, Johnson's work has been featured in the magazines Sky & Telescope and New Scientist.

Johnson received his Bachelor of Science degree in physics from the University of Missouri- Rolla, and his Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley. He then held a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in astronomy and astrophysics, based at the Institute for Astronomy of the University of Hawaii. He was also named to the 2009 inaugural class of NASA Sagan Fellows. He is now an assistant professor of astronomy Caltech.

This public talk is presented by the Penn State Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds and the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute. Additional support comes from a grant from the National Science Foundation.

For more information or access assistance, contact the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at 814-865-0418.

[ Laurie Dasher ]

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