Press Release

Media Invited to “Search for Life Beyond the Solar System”

By SpaceRef Editor
March 13, 2014
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Media Invited to “Search for Life Beyond the Solar System”

WHAT: “The Search for Life Beyond the S?olar S?ystem. Exoplanets, Biosignature & Instruments,” a conference that brings together experts to discuss how to find life in the universe; Jill Tarter, real-life inspiration for the movie “Contact,” will give public talk.

WHEN: March 16-21, 2014

WHERE: University of Arizona campus, Tucson, Arizona

The Vatican Observatory and the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory will co-host a conference on “The Search for Life Beyond the solar system. Exoplanets, Biosignature & Instruments” from March 16-21 in Tucson, Arizona.

Recent discoveries are rapidly increasing the number of known Earth-sized planets. Meanwhile, scientists are finding a likewise increasing range of extreme conditions in which life on Earth can persist. But what techniques and technologies will allow us to search for such life on these exoplanets? To address this multifaceted challenge, the scientists attending the conference will include experts on exoplanet observations, early and extreme life on Earth, atmospheric biosignatures, and planet-finding telescopes.

“Astronomers, planetary scientists and astrobiologists at the UA have pioneered new methods and instruments that will make the search for life beyond the solar system possible,” said Daniel Apai, assistant professor of astronomy and planetary sciences at the UA Steward Observatory, and one of the event’s co-chairs. “But reaching such an ambitious goal takes planning and time. The goal of this meeting is to discuss how we can find life among the stars within the next two decades.”

About 200 scientists from around the world are expected to attend and more than 160 scientific presentations have been submitted, said the Rev. Paul Gabor of the Vatican Observatory, the other co-chair for the conference.

“Finding life beyond Earth is one of the great challenges of modern science and we are excited to have the world leaders in this field together in Tucson,” Apai said.

While the conference is not open to the public, members of the media are welcome to attend with prior registration. NASA’s Astrobiology Institute will broadcast a live feed of the entire conference, which will remain available online after the event. There also will be a public talk by Jill Tarter of the SETI Institute on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the UA Social Sciences building, Room 100. Tarter is the outgoing director of the Center for SETI Research, holding the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI at the SETI Institute. SETI stands for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

Among the sessions planned for the five-day conference are invited review and contributed talks, followed by extended discussions. Among the 14 invited speakers are two MacArthur “Genius” Fellows: Sara Seager (MIT), an expert in extrasolar planet atmospheres and in the detection of extraterrestrial biosignatures, and Olivier Guyon (UA and Subaru Observatory), who is developing powerful optical systems for studying extrasolar planets.

Along with the conference itself, graduate students have been invited to a pre-conference workshop the weekend before the conference; 26 participants from 7 countries are slated to attend, which will be held at the UA’s Biosphere 2.

Together with the Vatican Observatory and the UA Steward Observatory, other institutions co-sponsoring the meeting include the NASA Astrobiology Institute; the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory; and the Europe-based International Center for Relativistic Astrophysics Network.

Media representatives who would like to register for the conference at no cost are asked to contact Chris Impey.

Daniel Stolte
UA Science Writer
+1 520-626-4402

Chris Impey
UA Department of Astronomy

Conference website:

SpaceRef staff editor.