Autumnal Lecture Series to discuss exoplanets on Sept. 27


The Department of Physics Autumnal Lecture Series will focus on a new satellite that was designed to find planets outside of our solar system.

This lecture is open to the public and will take place at 4 p.m. Sept. 27 in the Sarah and Daniel Opperman Auditorium in Charles V. Park Library. 

“The lecture series is a way for physics, which is usually not as accepted, to reach out to the community,” said physics faculty member Marco Fornari. 

Fornari said this is an effort to bring physics topics to a broader audience rather than just people in the physics field.

Dr. Stephen Rinehart, an astronomer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, will be presenting at the lecture series. Rinehart is notable for his work on the Hubble Space Telescope but will be talking about the newest satellite that he and a team of scientists constructed.

This new work is called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), the satellite that hopes to detect thousands of new exoplanets, or planets that are outside our solar system. 

The TESS just launched this May, Fornari said. 

The foundation for building the TESS came from astronomers finding evidence of an exoplanet a few decades ago. Ever since then, scientists have been working to study these exoplanets, which helps to understand the evolution of planets as well as what makes a planet habitable. 

The TESS will enhance the progress of this work. Once planets are found, scientists will be able to look at them with ground-based telescopes and start characterizing these new worlds. 

The lecture will be followed by refreshments in the Baber Room. 

Fornari also looks at this lecture series as a way to celebrate the students’ hard work. During the reception, physics students will present posters on their summer research.

Later in the evening at 8 p.m., there will be an opportunity to visit the Brooks Astronomical Observatory and take a glimpse at the fall sky with Central Michigan University’s telescopes.