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A few decades ago, we knew of no other planets beyond those in our solar system. Today, astronomers have confirmed over 700 planets circling other suns and believe billions more lay undiscovered. These new worlds have smashed conventional assumptions, revealing planets orbiting multiple stars, planets that don’t orbit stars at all, and at least one as airy as Styrofoam. The incredible boom in planetary diversity raises tantalizing prospects for an Earth analog that could harbor life—as we know it, and as we never imagined it.
This program is part of the Big Ideas Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.
Matt Mountain has been the Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute since September 1, 2005. He leads the 400-person organization responsible for the science operations and education and public outreach of the Hubble Space Telescope and of its planned successor, the James Webb Space Telescope.Read More
Natalie Batalha is a UC Presidential Chair, Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and Director of Astrobiology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She will lead the Early Release Science program for transiting exoplanets — a scientific community effort to acquire some of the first observations of exoplanets with the James Webb Space Telescope.Read More