University of Minnesota

E.T. Phone Home?

To the Stars We Will Go — The Worlds of Exoplanets

Charles Woodward
Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics

Thursday, September 17, 2015
Bell Museum Auditorium

Watch a recording of Prof Woodward's lecture at


Many movies over the last several decades have dramatized our fascination with alien life forms. But could aliens really exist?

This lecture will highlight how astronomers detect and characterize planets outside our solar system that could harbor alien life.

The recent revolution of exoplanet detections by the NASA Kepler mission and ground-based searches for exoplanets has given way to a new understanding of how common place other worlds are in the Galaxy. Our prospective of astrobiology as suddenly blossomed. Highlighted, as part of this presentation, will be a review of how astronomers detected and characterize these exo-planets, using techniques at the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory and elsewhere, a reflection on the potential requirements of the habitability zones in exo-planetary system, highlights from NASA missions designed to search for alien worlds, and the surprises within our own solar systems of bodies that may harbor life at present of may have supported life in the past. Indeed, we may be at the point where "E.T. will phone home."

Professor Woodward's lecture will be followed by a Q&A session, plus stargazing with MIfA graduate students (weather-permitting).

About the Speaker

Woodward joined the faculty of the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics in 2000. Over the last five years, his research focus has centered on science initiatives using the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope, and the NASA SOFIA airborne observatory. He has also continued his ground-based observational research related to interstellar dust, comets, and evolved stars and stellar populations.

Woodward is the Program Director for the LBTO Corp. coordinating the University of Minnesota’s involvement in the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) and access to telescopes of the Steward Observatories. Currently, Woodward is a member of an international collaboration to detect exoplanets around nearby stars as a member of the LEECH team using the LBT Interferometer.

Woodward also teaches variety of undergraduate and graduate courses at the University of Minnesota ranging from introductory astronomy, freshman seminars, to graduate courses in planetary science and the interstellar medium.

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