28 Sep 2009

Lecture 3 - The search for other planets, other life

From The Galileo Lectures, 9:00 am on 28 September 2009

Alan Gilmore, Mt John Observatory, University of Canterbury

Alan Gilmore Lake Tekapo

The realisation that stars are just distant suns, like our own, led to speculation about the existence of other planets, and other life forms. The first extra-solar planet orbiting a 'normal' star was detected in 1996. More than 300 planets have now been identified, and many have been discovered by New Zealand astronomers. But the chances of finding one which has the pre-requisites for life are slim, and even if we do find another in "The Goldilocks Zone", the possibility of travelling to it is as yet out of the question. Earth is a very special place indeed. (Recorded in Tekapo)

Alan Gilmore has been resident superintendent of the Mt John Observatory at Lake Tekapo since 1996. An amateur astronomer since his school days, he began professional astronomy at the Carter Observatory, Wellington, in 1970. He is involved in many observing programmes at Mt John, including, with wife Pam Kilmartin, a long running programme to track near Earth asteroids