October 20, 2009

The Holy Grail in Exoplanet Science

A couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed a great evening of exoplanets, music, cocktail and science at the SciCafe Event which launched with a topic about Exoplanets and the Search for Life in the Universe.

Ben Oppenheimer's lecture and presentation was stylish and unique. A 3D map of the known exoplanets around our stellar neighborhood was shown in multiple widescreens scattered across the museum space. He gave some background on adaptive optics, coronal shields (coronagraphy) and spectography. He showed animation clips across the different wavelengths of light seen from a star: the resulting animation is a function not of time but of color. He also gave a hint that soon he will release some new findings they gained using their technique.

The whole aura during the event was simply hip and cool. Just imagine sipping red wine inside the American Museum of Natural History (Rose Center) with some ambient music while being immersed in planetary stuff. Of course, seeing some twitter friends, @leebillings and @bnroberts at the event was nice. And did I mention that I wore my nerdy Kepler shirt and a beautiful woman commented on it? "Nice shirt!" she said, nodding in approval.

After the lecture, during the Q & A portion I kept raising my hand for the last question but I wasn't picked. But I was glad that Ben picked someone else who asked an excellent question, "What is the Holy Grail in Exoplanet Science?"

And I appreciated the answer I heard: For Ben Oppenheimer, the Holy Grail in Exoplanet Science is simply being part of it. He says that the Holy Grail is not making the best exoplanet discovery and being in the news and in the papers. The Holy Grail is simply being part of the collective efforts of a myriad of people that revolves around the Science of Exoplanets. Ultimately, he says, Exoplanet Science will be done by society as a whole. Now that's the Holy Grail of Exoplanet Science. Amen!