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Life Among the Stars

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2020 Einstein Lecture

Less than two decades ago, wondering whether other stars really did host planets was a matter for science fiction writers rather than scientists. Today, we’ve gone from complete ignorance, to a treasure trove of ‘exoplanets’– different sized planets that orbit around other stars – thanks to innovation, persistence, and meticulous measurement. But what does this mean for the search for life beyond Earth? Adding this diversity of exoplanets spread across our galaxy, to the planets and moons in our very own solar system, only makes the search for alien life more complicated.

To find out where we should look for life, we need to ask whether a planet or moon is habitable and if it has the conditions necessary to get life started. Although we can (mostly) answer the first question, the second is harder to determine. Not only would we need to delve into a distant planet’s past, but also settle the hotly contested debate on the origin of life here on Earth? Did life on Earth start in deep sea vents as previously thought or in hot springs on land as more recent evidence seems to show?

Join us to hear from exoplanet expert Chris Tinney and origin of life researcher Martin Van Kranendonk as they share the latest findings on these fascinating questions.