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"Using General Relativity to Discover Planets" is a free public lecture on February 21, 2015

21 February 2015 at 11:00 am 100 Thomas Building

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WrightJason2009A free public lecture titled "Using General Relativity to Discover Planets" will begin at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 21, in 100 Thomas Building on the Penn State University Park campus. The lecture is among the events in the annual Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science. The overall theme of then 2015 series is "100 Years After Einstein's Greatest Discovery: New Science from General Relativity." No registration is required.

The speaker for this lecture is Jason Wright, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State. He is a member of the Penn State Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds and the Penn State Astrobiology Research Center, which is part of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. He also is a member of the California Planet Survey consortium.

Wright's research is focused on understanding stars, their atmospheres, their activity, and their planets. To find and study new planets around stars in solar systems other than our own, he uses the Keck Observatory and the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, for which Penn State is a major founding partner and a continuing partner institution.

Wright maintains a long-term monitoring program, in which he searches for stars that are known to host multiple planets. He and his collaborators have substantially increased the number of such known systems in recent years. Wright and his students are providing a powerful resource on the orbits of known planets around stars other than the Sun by maintaining up-to-date discovery information in the Exoplanet Orbit Database and the Exoplanet Data Explorer interactive plotter online at exoplanets.org.

Among his research achievements, he is a member of the Penn State research team that recently obtained very precise measurements, with the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, of a pair of stars that are orbited by a single planet -- like the stellar system of the fictional planet Tatooine in the movie Star Wars. These measurements are helping astronomers to understand how stars and planetary systems form. The Penn State measurements are among the most precise ever made for such low-mass stars, and they also provide an important independent test of a sophisticated new technique for measuring masses from the data obtained by NASA'S Kepler satellite, a space observatory designed to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. Wright also has developed techniques for detecting planets with long orbital periods, and he is the discoverer of a solar system that resembles our own.

Wright joined the Penn State faculty in 2009.  He earned a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics at Boston University in 1999. He earned a master's degree in astrophysics in 2003 and a Ph.D. degree in astrophysics in 2006, both at the University of California at Berkeley.

The remaining lecture in the 2015 Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science is "Pushing Science Beyond Einstein" by Eugenio Bianchi of Penn State on February 28.

The Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science is a program of the Penn State Eberly College of Science that is designed for the enjoyment and education of residents of the Central Pennsylvania area and beyond. Financial support for the 2015 lectures is provided by the Eberly College of Science and by its Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos. For more information or access assistance, contact the Eberly College of Science Office of Media Relations and Public Information by telephone at 814-863-8453 or by e-mail at jms1140@psu.edu. More information about the Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science, including archived recordings of previous lectures, is online at science.psu.edu/Frontiers.


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