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Next Florida Tech Public Science Lecture Shares Details of New Potentially Habitable Planetary Systems April 26

04/18/2013

MELBOURNE, FLA.—The next Public Science Lecture Series presentation at Florida Institute of Technology will be given by Darin Ragozzine, who will join the Florida Tech Department of Physics and Space Sciences faculty as an assistant professor in the fall. In his lecture, "The Unheralded Discovery of a New Type of Planetary System With Billions of Potentially Habitable Planets," Ragozzine will discuss NASA's Kepler Space Telescope and its observations of new planetary systems that could support life.

The free April 26 lecture will be from 8 to 9 p.m. in the F.W. Olin Engineering Complex, Room EC118, on campus. There will be rooftop public star viewing following the presentation if weather permits.

Scientists are still just beginning to understand these new systems. However, the revolutionary new observations from the Kepler Space Telescope have revealed that when the systems are placed around smaller, cooler stars, the size and expected temperature of many of their planets are a close match to the properties of Earth. These planets can then be considered potentially habitable in the sense that they are not too hot, too cold, too large, or too small to prevent surface liquid water. We now know that this new type of planetary system is actually extremely common and present around perhaps half of all stars. Unlike our solar system, this type system has three to five tightly packed planets a few times larger than Earth and has an orbit about one tenth as large as the Earth's.

In the last month, exciting new calculations have shown that these potentially habitable planets number in the tens of billions within our galaxy alone. “This tsunami of data on new planetary systems and potentially habitable planets will lead to a new wave of scientific investigations with implications for our place in the universe,” said Ragozzine.

Ragozzine, currently with the Department of Astronomy, University of Florida, received his bachelor's degree in physics and astronomy, and astrophysics from Harvard University in 2004. He later earned master's and doctorate degrees in planetary science from the California Institute of Technology. Ragozzine is also a current Institute for Theory and Computation Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

The F.W. Olin Engineering Complex is located on West University Boulevard. For more information, call (321) 674-7207or visit www.fit.edu/aapls.

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