The Search for Habitable Planets and Life in the Universe
Geoff Marcy presents a public talk at UC Berkeley on January 17th, 2009, in celebration of the International Year of Astronomy. Now precisely 400 years after Galileo turned his first telescope heavenward, where do we humans fit in the cosmos? Science fiction depicts our Milky Way Galaxy as teeming with habitable planets populated by advanced civilizations that engage in interstellar travel and exploration. Back in our real universe, Earth-like planets and alien life have proved elusive. Where are they? Has science fiction led us astray? In 2009, astronomers will launch the first searches for Earth-like worlds around other stars, using extraordinary new telescopes for the task. These legacies to Galileo's little scope will catapult humanity into a wild race to discover inhabited worlds and extraterrestrial life.