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Richard G. LyonRichard G. Lyon
The Direct Detection and Characterization of Earthlike Exoplanets

Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Building 3 Auditorium - 3:30 PM
(Refreshments at 3:00 PM)

The search for the origins of life outside of our own ecosphere and elsewhere in the universe is one of the most compelling areas of science that humans can aspire to. This is by necessity an incremental process and includes the search for exosolar terrestrial planets where liquid water could exist, i.e. planets in the habitable zone of a star. Liquid water is believed to be a necessary condition for life.

Imaging terrestrial planets, that are typically 10-10 times dimmer in visible light than the parent star and embedded in a sea of dust comprising the exo-zodiacal disk, represents a very difficult imaging problem. Any technique requires coronagraphic suppression of the starlight to increase the contrast of the planet with respect to residual diffraction and scattered light. NASA is assessing a multitude of such techniques via simulation and by a series of laboratory testbed. Herein will be discussed the general exoplanet detection and characterization problem and an assessment of the most promising techniques and their status.

Richard Lyon is an optical scientist in NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics Lab. He is developing techniques for the direct detection of exoplanets, imaging interferometry and wavefront sensing and control. R. Lyon is the project scientist for the proposed Exosolar Planetary Imaging Coronagraph (EPIC) mission and has in the past been involved with the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope as well as numerous laboratory testbed efforts. He holds multiple awards and NASA's Medal for Exceptional Achievement and has approximately 135 publications in astrophysics, optics and applied mathematics.

IS&T Colloquium Committee Host: James Tilton