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Visiting astronomer to talk about planets around other stars

At last count, astronomers have found more than 150 planets orbiting around distant stars. Heidi B. Hammel, a senior research scientist with the Space Science Institute, will talk about these planets - how astronomers find them, what they are probably like, and what they might tell us about the prospects for life elsewhere in the universe - in a public presentation at New Mexico State University on Thursday, April 20.



Astronomer Heidi Hammel will talk about planets that orbit other stars in a public presentation at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 20, in the Gerald Thomas Hall Auditorium at New Mexico State University.


The talk will begin at 7 p.m. in the Gerald Thomas Hall Auditorium.

Hammel is a member of the science team for NASA's Terrestrial Planet Finder mission, which has the goal of finding Earth-like plants around other stars.

She primarily studies the solar system's outer planets and their satellites. An acknowledged expert on the planet Neptune, she was a member of the Imaging Science Team for the Voyager 2 encounter with that planet in 1989.

Her latest research involves studies of Neptune and Uranus with the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and Earth-based observatories. She is an interdisciplinary scientist for HST's successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled for launch in 2013.

Hammel will sign copies of her biography, "Beyond Jupiter: The Story of Planetary Astronomer Heidi Hammel" by Fred Bortz, before and after the public lecture. The book is part of a series of books about women in science careers, aimed at middle school and high school girls.

Hammel's visit is part of the university's ADVANCE Visiting Professors Program, which seeks to bring about increased interaction between nationally recognized female scholars and students of all ages. During her visit, she will meet with students who participate in the NASA-funded Southern New Mexico Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy (SEMAA) and with NMSU education majors who plan to become science teachers.

She will present a science colloquium, "Uranus and Neptune: Understanding the Ice Giants," at 3:45 p.m. Friday, April 21, in Room 102 of the Biology Annex.