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e-Town Hall Meeting with Dr. Aki Roberge (Towards Earth 2.0: Exoplanets and Future Space Telescopes), and John Thornton (Making Space Accessible to the World)

July 11, 2020 @ 10:00 am 12:30 pm

 e-Town Hall Meeting with Dr. Aki Roberge (Towards Earth 2.0: Exoplanets and Future Space Telescopes), and John Thornton (Making Space Accessible to the World) 

Jul 11, 2020 from 10:00 AM to 12:30 PM (PT)

RSVP and Information: https://conta.cc/2SvGyx7

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Towards Earth 2.0: Exoplanets and Future Space Telescopes
(Dr. Aki Roberge)
Making Space Accessible to the World
(John Thornton)

e-Town Hall Meeting
July 11, 2020, 10 AM
Dr. Aki Roberge
Research Astrophysicist
Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics Lab at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center(currently on temporary detail to NASA HQ)


John Thornton
Chief Executive Officer of Astrobotic

RSVP & Information: https://conta.cc/2SvGyx7

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Dr. Aki Roberge is a research astrophysicist in the Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics Lab at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, currently on temporary detail to NASA HQ. Her work focuses on 1) planet-forming disks around nearby young stars and 2) future space observatories to observe planets around other stars, aka. exoplanets. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics with a Planetary Science minor from MIT and a PhD in Astrophysics from Johns Hopkins University. She is currently serving as the Deputy Program Scientist for NASA’s WFIRST mission (in development) and was the Study Scientist for the LUVOIR mission concept study. In 2014, she received the Robert H. Goddard Award for Science. She was a member of NASA’s 2013 Visionary Astrophysics Roadmap Team and is currently serving on the NASA Planetary Science Advisory Committee.

John Thornton is the Chief Executive Officer of Astrobotic. Astrobotic, a space robotics company, where he is responsible for leading Astrobotic’s mission of making space accessible to the world. Thornton leads by attracting technology contracts, equity investment, and payload customers. He also oversees the team for the company’s product line of landers including Peregrine which is set for the mission for 2021. Prior to Astrobotic, at Carnegie Mellon University, Thornton led the build of Scarab, a NASA concept robot for lunar polar exploration. It was the first robot to carry a prototype of NASA’s RESOLVE payload. He also founded Carnegie Mellon’s Advanced Composites Lab, an R&D and manufacturing lab specializing in high performance, lightweight composites for robotics. John Thornton holds a Masters in Mechanical Engineering and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

Towards Earth 2.0: Exoplanets and Future Space Telescopes

Humans have long wondered if there were worlds around other stars and maybe life on those worlds. Over the last two decades, astronomers have found that the answer to the first question is a resounding YES! In fact, planets around other stars (exoplanets) are amazingly common. On average, there’s at least one planet for every star in the Milky Way galaxy, meaning over 100 billion planets in our galaxy alone. Even better, the exoplanets discovered are surprisingly diverse, with exotic types that we don’t have in the solar system – blazing hot Jupiters, mini-Neptunes, super-Earths. We’ve also discovered Earth-size exoplanets orbiting in stellar “habitable zones”. A habitable zone is the range of distances from a star where a rocky planet like Earth might have liquid water on its surface, which is a key ingredient for life. Earth is unique in the solar system because its surface life is so abundant that it has changed the planet’s whole atmosphere. For example, the oxygen we breathe comes from photosynthetic organisms (green plants). With the right tools and techniques, we have a chance of seeing such signs of life on a planet around another star. Right now, it’s hard to measure much more about an exoplanet than its orbit, mass, and/or size. Probing the atmospheres and surfaces of Earth-size planets around Sun-like stars is not yet possible – but could be in the coming decades. I’ll discuss how astronomers can study exoplanet atmospheres, challenges in the search for Earth 2.0, and prospects for future discoveries using space-based telescopes. A team of scientists and engineers has developed a concept for a “super-duper Hubble” called LUVOIR. The key goals of this possible future space telescope are to find dozens of Earth-size planets in the habitable zones of stars like our Sun and probe those worlds for signs of water and life. I’ll share a few highlights from our 2019 Final Report on the LUVOIR concept study, and provide a glimpse into the early stages of developing a future NASA Great Observatory.

Part II: Making Space Accessible to the World

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