This illustration shows the possible surface of TRAPPIST-1f, one of the newly discovered planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. Scientists using the Spitzer Space Telescope and ground-based telescopes have discovered that there are seven Earth-size planets in the system. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech


CAP Lecture: What's New in the Search for Exoplanets and Extraterrestrial Life

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 2:30 PM

CAP Lecture: What's New in the Search for Exoplanets and Extraterrestrial Life

Stan Greenspoon
CAP Talk, Capilano University

March 31 2017 at 2:30pm in C9000


2:30 - 3:30 PM: Lecture in C9000 (coffee and light snacks will be served)
3:30 - 5:00 PM: Informal Q&A Session with Dr. Greenspoon for Undergraduate Students in P8445.2 (pizza and cold beverages will be served)


The detection of the first planet outside our solar system in 1995 ushered in a period of intensive work directed at not only detecting more such exoplanets, of which well over 3000 have now been confirmed, but also aimed at determining the properties of exoplanets and their atmospheres, as well as exploring the variety of planetary systems. A principal goal of this research has been to make progress towards answering the question wondered about since antiquity, “are we alone?”. I will survey some of the more interesting recent discoveries in exoplanet research, much of which is based on phenomena from areas familiar to physics students, ranging from classical mechanics to general relativity. The criteria for inferring the presence of extraterrestrial life will be discussed, as will the issues involved in our being able to gather data confirming its existence. In addition, I will survey some of the plans proposed for research in the near and distant future, including the launch of successors to the Hubble and Kepler space telescopes.

Short bio:

Stanley Greenspoon earned his B.Sc. degree (Honours Physics) from McGill University and his M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Waterloo. In 2014, he retired from Capilano University in North Vancouver, B.C., where he had been a faculty member in the Physics Department since 1988 and chair of the Pure & Applied Sciences Division since 2006. Earlier in his career, Stan taught at a number of universities and colleges in Quebec, Ontario, and Newfoundland. When he was in his twenties, Stan served on the Secretariat of the United Nations in New York City as a science affairs officer, involved with the application of science and technology to development. His scientific interests, publications, and conference presentations have been in the areas of Statistical and Condensed Matter Physics, Astronomy, and Physics Education. From 2006 to 2014, Stan served as chair of the British Columbia Physics and Astronomy Articulation Committee, at which representatives from universities and colleges across the province meet to facilitate student transfer between institutions.

About the CAP Lecture

Each year, SFU Physics participates in the Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP) Lecture Tour by inviting a guest speaker to deliver a lecture to SFU undergrad students. The 2017 CAP Lecture Tour features presentations that span a wide range of current topics in physics. Speakers are CAP members who are nominated by their department heads or colleagues for their outstanding ability to present an exciting topic in physics to undergraduate students with clarity and enthusiasm.