In this lecture, Dimitar Sasselov will review recent discoveries of exoplanets — planets outside of our solar system — and new estimates of how common potentially habitable worlds appear to be. He will describe new, comprehensive efforts to hone the search for signatures of life on exoplanets. Central to the success of that search is a deeper understanding of the nature of life and its origins. Sasselov will review recent progress from laboratory studies that connects astronomical exploration and the question of life’s origins.
Sasselov studies stars and planets at Harvard University, where he is professor of astronomy. His research explores modes of interaction between light and matter. He and his team discovered several planets orbiting stars outside our solar system with novel techniques, which he hopes to use to find planets like Earth.
Sasselov is founding director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative, a cross-disciplinary research effort bridging the physical and life sciences. He was a senior science advisor for the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard and a member of the Global Agenda Council on Space Security at the World Economic Forum.