The UMD Department of Astronomy
cordially invites you to the
Mike A'Hearn Lecture
"Small Bodies: Primitive Witnesses to the Birth of a Habitable Solar System"
Astronomer at the University of Hawai'i Institute for Astronomy
Wednesday, December 6, 2023
3:30 -- 4:00 p.m. Pre-lecture Reception, Atlantic Building (ATL) 2400 Atrium
4:00 -- 5:00 p.m. Lecture, ATL Room 2400
5:15 -- 6:00 p.m. Post-Lecture Reception in Physical Sciences Complex (PSC) Room 1136
ABOUT THE TALK
No one knows if our solar system, with a planet possessing the necessary ingredients for life within the "habitable zone", is a cosmic rarity. We also don't know if the gas giants in our solar system played a role in delivering the materials essential to life to the habitable zone. Our solar system does not have a common arrangement of planets. Does this have implications for Earth's habitability? The answers to these questions are contained in the leftovers of the process of forming our solar system. Today, we observe these remnants of the birth of our solar system as comets and icy asteroids. Decades of small body observations from the ground and in space and contributions of all-sky surveys confirm old theories and uncover new information to help piece together how at least one inhabited solar system became habitable. In this talk, I will explore how recent discoveries and interdisciplinary investigations address how Earth became habitable and what we can expect using new tools such as the James Webb Space Telescope, the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, and future missions.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Karen Meech is an astronomer/astrobiologist at the University of Hawai'i's Institute for Astronomy (IfA) who investigates how habitable worlds form. Her discoveries in small-body solar system science provide information to test our understanding of how planetary systems are assembled. With the discovery of interstellar objects, this now extends to exoplanetary systems. She uses the power of interdisciplinary science to address fundamental questions about how Earth got its water. She began her career in physics and astronomy with an undergraduate degree in Space Physics from Rice University and a Ph.D. in planetary physics from MIT studying comets, after which she joined the faculty at the University of Hawai'i. She served as the Graduate Program Chair from 2018-2021 and was the Interim Director for the IfA in 2021. She has won many awards for her work, including the Dannie Heineman Prize from the American Astronomical Society. She was a co-investigator on three comet missions: Deep Impact, EPOXI and Stardust-NExT.
ABOUT THE LECTURE
Ralph Pass (B.S. '68, M.A. '72, Ph.D. '78, mathematics) established the Mike A'Hearn Endowed Lectureship in 2020 in memory of UMD Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy Michael "Mike" Francis A'Hearn (1940-2017). Pass worked on all the manned Apollo missions and other NASA projects and credited A'Hearn as one of the top influencers of his academic life.
A renowned cometary astronomer, A'Hearn is perhaps most recognized as principal investigator and project leader of the spacecraft mission, Deep Impact, which resulted in the close exploration of two comets. However, his interests and reputation were broad and far beyond the cometary field. While UMD was his home, his reach encompassed the entire planetary astronomy community and the scientific community overall—both nationally and internationally. He was a brilliant scientist, a respected and influential collaborator, an inclusive team leader, and a most encouraging mentor to countless undergraduate and graduate students as well as young scientists. His legacy in the scientific community is remarkable.
Questions? Contact Barbara Hansborough at email@example.com or 301-405-1508.