MTSU professor John Wallin’s “Search for Extraterrestrial Life” begins the schedule this Friday, Sept. 4, for the Department of Physics and Astronomy’s fall First Friday Star Party.
Through the fall 2015 semester, MTSU’s star parties will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 4, Oct. 2, Nov. 6 and Dec. 4 in Room 1006 of the Science Building, 440 Friendship St.
For parking and building locations, a searchable campus parking map is available at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParking2015-16.
The general public and campus community are invited to the free 45- to 60-minute lectures, which will be followed by telescope observations if weather permits.
First Friday Star Parties are a way for the department to bring the MTSU, Murfreesboro and surrounding communities together to view and discuss the stars, planets and more.
Wallin, director of the MTSU computational sciences program, will present the semester’s first star party lecture.
“Although we obviously haven’t found life outside of Earth, there are a number of projects underway that are giving us a better understanding of where to look and how we might search,” he said.
“In the last few years, the Kepler spacecraft has detected the first few Earth-like planets outside the solar system. Although we have only found a few of them because they are so hard to detect, the current estimate is that there are about 40 billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy.”
Wallin said scientists and researchers “are learning much more about the possible places to search for life in our own solar system. So far, we have spent most of our effort looking for evidence of life on Mars. However, the large oceans under the ice in the moons of the Jovian planets might provide even a better environment for life to evolve.
“Even the recent data on Pluto suggests that the active geology of objects in the Kuiper belt might lead to liquid water oceans under the icy surface of these bodies,” Wallin added. “With these recent discoveries, we might find that life on planets like Earth might be far less common than life underneath the ice in the outer moons of planets.”
Other First Friday Star Parties this fall will include:
- Oct. 2 – “Dwarf Planet Ceres,” led by instructor Jana Ruth Ford.
- Nov. 6 – “Particle Fever,” led by instructor Rob Mahurin, which includes a showing of the award-winning, 99-minute documentary on the Large Hadron Collider, followed by a Q&A session.
- Dec. 4 – “Funky Fizix in Film: Time Travel,” led by professor Eric Klumpe.
For more information about the series, contact Klumpe by calling 615-898-2483, emailing Eric.Klumpe@mtsu.edu or visiting www.mtsu.edu/programs/astronomy.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)