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Jan.27, 2003
Kathleen Burton
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Phone: 650/604-1731 or 650/604-9000
E-mail: kburton@mail.arc.nasa.gov


RELEASE: 03-08AR

NOTE TO EDITORS AND NEWS DIRECTORS: Members of the news media and public are invited to attend the third talk in this year's 2002-2003 Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, to be held on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 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.

BERKELEY ASTRONOMER TO DISCUSS MYSTERIOUS BROWN DWARFS

"Failed Stars or Supergiant Planets: A Cosmic Identity Crisis" will be the topic of a free, non-technical talk at 7 p.m. PST on Wednesday, Jan. 29, at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, Calif. The public is invited.

Dr. Gibor Basri, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, will discuss the mysterious objects called ‘brown dwarfs’ and the shadowy realms they inhabit, between being a planet and being a star.

"The Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series is a fine example of a robust collaboration resulting in excellence in outreach,” said NASA Ames Center Director G. Scott Hubbard. "NASA Ames is proud to co-sponsor the series."

Basri, who has made pioneering observations of brown dwarfs, will discuss how astronomers are learning to make more sophisticated distinctions about exactly what it takes to be a star.

Brown dwarfs, which have been described as failed stars, are celestial objects more massive than planets like Jupiter, but not large enough to sustain the thermonuclear reactions that make stars shine.  Like planets and stars, they have gravitational fields and atmospheres that get cooler the further one moves from their core.

This is the fourth year of the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, which is co-sponsored by NASA Ames, Foothill College's Division of Physical Science, Mathematics and Engineering, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and the 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. 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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