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SETI Astronomer Will Discuss A Ringside Seat to the Birth of Planets
May 23, 2007
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7 to 8:30 p.m.
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Astronomer Dana Backman, of the Mountain View-based SETI Institute, will present A Ringside Seat to the Birth of Planets, an illustrated, non-technical talk, Wednesday, May 23, at 7 p.m. in the Smithwick Theater at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking. Astronomers have discovered dusty é─˙doughnutsé─¨ of cosmic raw material around many younger stars. In some cases, astronomers can see tantalizing hints in the rings that planets may be forming or may already have formed from this material. The talk will be illustrated with images of and by some of the most advanced telescopes in the world. Dr. Backman will explain how new kinds of telescopes and observations are making it possible for us to detect the birth process of planets around nearby stars. Heé─˘ll discuss how some of these structures remind us of the asteroid belt in our own solar system, and the rings of icy chunks beyond Neptune that are called the Kuiper Belt. He will conclude by previewing future observations of these intriguing dusty rings with new telescopes, particularly the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Project for which NASA has outfitted a Boeing 747 jet airline with a special telescope that can observe heat-rays from distant objects. Dr. Backman has been both a research astronomer, specializing in infrared observations, and a widely praised teacher of astronomy. He is the manager of education and outreach for the SOFIA Project and a popular public speaker on topics on the frontiers of astronomy. The lecture is presented as part of the 8th Annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series sponsored by Foothill College, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past lectures from the series are available in MP3 format online at www.astrosociety.org/podcast/. Visitors must purchase a campus parking permit for $2 (eight quarters). Parking lots 1, 3, 5 and 6 provide access to the theater. Foothill College is located on El Monte Road off Interstate 280.
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