Prof. Natalie Batalha, UC Santa Cruz, a former project scientist for NASA’s Kepler Mission will be speaking at Cornell next week.

November 27, 2018

Former Kepler Mission Scientist to Speak About Searching For Life in The Universe

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Natalie Batalha, a former project scientist for NASA’s Kepler Mission, will lead the audience on a journey to the stars, providing insight into future missions to search for lives beyond the Earth in a lecture next Wednesday, Dec. 5.

The Kepler Mission surveyed hundreds of billions of the stars in our galaxy. Its purpose was to determine the fraction of stars that have Earth-size or smaller planets within their habitable zones — which means life and liquid water may be present.

“Kepler is the reason why we know that every 5th star on the night sky hosts a planet that could potentially be like our own. It really enabled the search for planets like ours.” said Prof. Lisa Kaltenegger, astronomy, director of the Carl Sagan Institute.

When Kepler’s nine-year mission came to an end earlier this month 2,681 exoplanets — planets that orbit stars outside the solar system — were confirmed, with 2,899 candidates yet to be verified, according to CNN.

Batalha, who was involved in all these discoveries, will take the audience through the nine-year journey of Kepler spacecraft, from finding the first super hot worlds covered in molten lava to discovering the first worlds in the habitable zone of their stars, according to Kaltenegger.

Batalha is also a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California Santa Cruz and made it into the list of 2017 Time’s 100 most influential people for her work on the NASA mission.

Furthermore, Batalha is also an inspiration to the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell, whose main effort is to develop the capacity to detect life in the universe, inside and outside of our solar system.

Her success has also enabled scientists, including Kaltenegger, to launch a new program called Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which enables us to search for signs of life by looking at all our closest, brightest stars and finding planets like ours.

Speaking of the reason why Batalha is invited, Kaltenegger praised that her talks have always been inspiring and compelling.

“Her enthusiasm and deep knowledge are presented in a completely accessible way,” said Kaltenegger.

Batalha’s lecture will be the second Distinguished Carl Sagan Lecture series held by the Carl Sagan Institute. It will take place at Call Auditorium at 7 p.m. on Dec. 5 and is free and open to the public.

“The aim of the Distinguished Carl Sagan Public lecture is to share the excitement of science with everyone, the way that Carl Sagan did,” Kaltenegger added. “I am sure that Prof. Batalha’s lecture will do exactly that.”