The Science of Sustainability

Is Anyone Out There?

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Artist's concept of mini planetary system found by Kepler. Credit: NASA

Artist's concept of mini planetary system. Credit: NASA

NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope has been given more time to look for life-supporting planets outside our own solar system. The project, which has found more than 2,000 planets since it was launched in 2009, recently edged out several popular space programs to secure an extension in funding. Geoff Marcy is one of the world’s most prolific planet hunters. He’s an astronomer at UC Berkeley and works on the Kepler project. KQED’s Andrea Kissack asked him for an update and his thoughts on the odds that the project may help find life somewhere else in the universe.

I met with Marcy in his office in the astronomy building on the south side of UC Berkeley. If anyone is going to find alien life, it will be Marcy. He has spotted more extra solar planets than most astronomers and he now has taken on yet another project as the new chair of the SETI program at UC Berkeley. Marcy sees his work with Kepler, and the ground based radio receivers of SETI, dovetailing nicely. As the Kepler project continues to find earth like planets, the next step, he says, will be to see if there are intelligent civilizations out there. The way to do that, Marcy says, is to use Kepler to narrow down the choices and then use SETI to point radio receivers at those specific planets, rather than just listening to broad swaths of the sky.

More on the search for exoplanets

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Category: Astronomy, News, Radio

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About the Author ()

Andrea is KQED's Senior Science Editor . Andrea was born in Los Angeles and discovered radio news through listening to her college radio station. With a curious mind and a love for telling stories, she set off for Tampa where she landed her first job as a reporter for Florida Public Radio. After three years reporting in an unbearably humid climate and a brief stint as a miscast opera reporter, Andrea returned to L.A. to work for public radio, then for television news and finally as a reporter for CBS radio. Andrea has been at KQED for over twelve years, working first as a producer for Forum, and then as the senior producer for The California Report. She is now KQED's Senior Science and Environment Editor and narrates the QUEST television program. Andrea says she feels lucky to cover emerging science and environmental trends in a place where geek is chic.
  • Anonymous

    If a transmission lag screwed up the timing of jokes, we'd only be able to watch live comedy shows. Huh.

  • http://twitter.com/GabrielRoybal Gabriel Roybal

    is Kepler the mission highlighted at the San Francisco Cal Academy planetarium show?