Thursday, March 19: Help in 'Scoping Out the Extra Solar Planet Zoo'

March 05, 2009

One planet, two planets, red planets, blue planets…the number of planets known to orbit nearby stars has now swelled to more than 300, warranting a kind of zoological classification scheme that groups planets by size, proximity to their stars, orbital shape, and potential to support life.

Darren Williams, associate professor of physics and astronomy at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, can help in “Scoping Out the Extrasolar Planet Zoo.” His Open House Night in Astronomy tour of the solar system will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 19, in 101 Otto Behrend Science Building. It is free and open to the public, and will be followed by astronomical observing from the college’s Mehalso Observatory, weather permitting.

“Most planets have been discovered in only the last decade, and to everyone’s surprise, planetary system architecture varies wildly from one system to the next,” Williams says. “Planets larger than Jupiter have been found closer to their stars than tiny Mercury is to the Sun. We’ll take inventory of the strange suite of new exoplanet systems and discuss their extraordinary properties.” 

Open House Nights in Astronomy are an outreach program of Penn State Behrend’s School of Science that are intended for a non-technical audience and suitable for children at least 8 years of age. For additional information, call (814) 898-6105.

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Last Updated January 09, 2015