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Observatory Night: Would We Know Life if We Saw It?

Observatory Night: Would We Know Life if We Saw It? Online

Over the last few decades, scientists have found thousands of planets beyond our own. Some of those planets might be habitable, and perhaps even inhabited already; but how can we tell? Clara Sousa-Silva, a fellow at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard-Smithsonian, looks for signs of life on other planets using astronomical tools such as spectroscopy to detect faint signals emitted by potential alien biospheres. In this presentation, Clara will draw on her experience investigating strange molecules on strange planets, such as her recent work exploring the possibility of phosphine on Venus, answering the question: "Would we know life if we saw it?"

Clara Sousa-Silva is a quantum astrochemist at the Center for Astrophysics. She investigates how molecules interact with light so that they can be detected on faraway worlds. Clara spends most of her time studying molecules that life can produce so that, one day, she can detect an alien biosphere. Her favorite molecular biosignature is phosphine: a terrifying gas associated with mostly unpleasant life. When she is not deciphering exoplanet atmospheres, Clara works hard to persuade the next generation of scientists to become an active part of the astronomical community.

The Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian sponsors Observatory Nights on the third Thursday of select months. Observatory Nights feature a nontechnical lecture intended for high-school age and older audiences but children are also welcome. This semester's events will be live streamed on the CfA's Facebook page.


This event is not being hosted by the SJR State Library. We are sharing news of this free event because it is related to the curriculum offered at the College and, therefore, may be of interest to our students, faculty, and staff.  

Thursday, April 15, 2021
7:00pm - 8:00pm
Time Zone:
Eastern Time - US & Canada (change)
  All SJR State Students     Community Members     SJR State Employees  
  Free event provided by an external agency  
This is an online event. Event URL: https://www.facebook.com/CenterForAstrophysicsHarvardSmithsonian