Lecture to address hype vs. reality of alien megastructures

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A free presentation titled "Searching for Alien Megastructures: Hype vs. Reality" will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 1, in 100 Thomas Building on Penn State's University Park Campus. The lecture will be presented by Jason Wright, associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State. The event is part of the 2015 Friedman Lecture Series in astronomy, which is free and open to the public.

In his talk, Wright will recount the history of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and discuss how he became involved in the "out-of-the-box" speculation that had everyone from CBS News to talk show host Stephen Colbert asking, "Have researchers discovered an alien Megastructure?" He also will speak about prospects for future research.

“NASA’s Kepler Mission has provided us with data on many thousands of stars that professional astronomers and ‘citizen scientists’ among the general public have been analyzing to search for planets around those stars,” said Chris Palma, senior lecturer of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State. “Jason has a great story for all of us about his work trying to figure out what is going on with perhaps the most unusual star in the study, nicknamed Tabby’s star.”

Wright earned his doctorate in astrophysics at the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on finding planetary systems like our own orbiting the nearest and most sun-like stars. He is a member of the Penn State Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds and is a member of Penn State’s Habitable Zone Planet Finder Spectrograph team, which is building an instrument to find nearby rocky planets that could have liquid water on their surfaces. He also works on projects related to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

This presentation is hosted by the Penn State Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and is funded largely by the Ronald M. and Susan J. Friedman Outreach Fund in Astronomy. Mr. Friedman is a member of the department's board of visitors.

Media Contacts: 

Chris Palma

Work Phone: 
814-865-6236
Last Updated November 30, 2015