Thursday, May 16th, 2013
ARE WE ALONE?
Dr. Jon Jenkins
On the evening of May 16th, Dr. Jon Jenkins—Co-Investigator and Analysis lead for NASA's Kepler mission— will give a public talk on the latest discoveries made by the planet-finding spacecraft, and the ongoing search for the most Earthlike planet yet. This event will be free and open to the public.
Abstract: For the past four years, NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has been searching for Earth-size planets orbiting Sun-like stars in the “habitable zone”, where liquid water could exist on the planet and perhaps support alien biology. Exquisitely precise monitoring of 200,000 stars has revealed more than 2700 probable planets, of which 122 have been independently confirmed. The most recent discoveries include a planetary system with 5 planets, of which 2 are in the habitable zone and have diameters of 1.4 and 1.7 times that of Earth. Dr. Jenkins will also give a brief overview of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), NASA’s next mission to detect Earth’s closest cousins.
About Jon Jenkins: Jon grew up in the shadow of Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building in Merritt Island, Florida, where he attended the launches of many rockets, and has a lifelong interest in space and space science. As an undergraduate, he conducted laboratory measurements of the radio properties of planetary atmospheres at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, under the direction of Dr. Paul G. Steffes. He received his Ph.D. at Georgia Tech by studying the atmosphere of Venus with data from the Pioneer Venus Orbiter. He moved to the Bay Area after graduation in April 1992 to join the SETI Institute as a Principal Investigator where he continued his studies of the Venus atmosphere with the Pioneer Venus Orbiter and with the Magellan Orbiter. In 1993 he became interested in the possibility of detecting planets orbiting short-period eclipsing binaries and developed detection algorithms for an international consortium that was observing the system CM Draconis intensely. This work brought him to the attention of Kepler’s Science Principal Investigator, William J. Borucki, who invited him to join the team in the spring of 1995. (Courtesy NASA)
Photo: Jon Jenkins, Kepler Co-Investigator and Analysis Lead.