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March 5, 2002

Kathleen Burton

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Phone: 650/604-1731 or 604-9000

kburton@mail.arc.nasa.gov


RELEASE: 02-25AR

NOTE TO EDITORS: Members of the news media and public are invited to attend the fourth talk in the 2001-2002 Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series to be held on Wednesday, March 6, at 7 p.m. PST at Foothill College's Smithwick Theater, Los Altos Hills, Calif. More information is available by calling the series hotline at 650/949-7888.

FEMALE 'PLANET HUNTER' TO REVEAL SOLAR SYSTEM SEARCH SECRETS

 'Planets Beyond: The Search For Other Solar Systems' will be the topic of a free, non-technical talk at 7 p.m. PST on Wednesday, March 6, at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, Calif.  The public is invited.

Astronomer Dr. Debra Fischer of the University of California, Berkeley, will discuss the latest research about planetary systems around other stars. Fischer is part of a team of astronomers, led by Dr. Geoff Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley and Dr. Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, who have found most of the planets around stars other than our sun. Over 80 such planets are now known.

"The Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series is an important resource for the community, bringing the latest scientific research in astrobiology and astronomy to a general audience," said NASA Ames Center Director Dr. Henry McDonald. "NASA Ames is proud to be a partner in these efforts."

 Fischer was instrumental in the discovery of the first system of planets outside the solar system, around the star Upsilon Andromedae. Her discovery marked the first time researchers found more than one planet around the same star, and established that there are other planetary systems - not just single planets  - in the cosmos. Her discussion will include the possibility that there are not just Jupiter-sized 'gas giants' around other stars, but possibly Earth-sized planets as well.

 Currently, Fischer is actively engaged in the search for other such systems. She will discuss what the latest discoveries tell us about the origin and abundance of planets.  In addition, she will preview new plans for finding even smaller planets that are more like the Earth than our present instruments are capable of sensing.  A question and answer period will follow her talk.

 Fischer's talk comes during March, which has been designated as National Women's History Month, to showcase women and their accomplishments in all fields of endeavor. NASA is conducting numerous national programs to honor the accomplishments of women in aerospace and to raise awareness of the importance of education to future careers.

Details about NASA's women's outreach initiative are available at: http://www.nasa.gov/women/welcomeWHM.html

 This is the fourth talk in this year's Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, co-sponsored by NASA Ames, Foothill College's Division of Physical Science, Mathematics and Engineering, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute.

 The lecture series is held at Foothill College's Smithwick Theater in Los Altos Hills. From interstate 280, exit at El Monte Road and travel west to the campus. Visitors must purchase a one-day campus-parking permit for $2. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Children over the age of 13 are welcome. More information is available by calling the series hotline at 650/949-7888. 

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