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On September 17, our talk was given by Dr. Meredith Hughes, and was entitled "How to Build a Planet".
The discovery of extrasolar planetary systems has overturned entrenched ideas about how our own planetary system formed. Around other stars we find exotic planets like nothing we see around our Sun: hot Jupiters, super-Earths, and massive planets at Kuiper Belt distances and beyond. Where do they come from, and can we devise a story of planet formation that can account for the wide diversity of systems we see around our own star and others? This talk will introduce you to some of the ways we learn about planet formation, starting with evidence from observations with the naked eye and small telescopes and proceeding to the latest in high-resolution optical, infrared, and radio telescope observations of the disks of gas and dust around young stars. We will explore the main theories and open questions about how planets form in circumstellar disks, and attempt to place our solar system in context: are we normal?
Meredith Hughes is a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley, studying planet formation primarily through short-wavelength radio observations of circumstellar disks. She holds a B.S. in physics and astronomy from Yale University and A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in astronomy from Harvard University. She enjoys sharing her enthusiasm for science, conservation, and astronomy, and has been a volunteer interpreter with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the Museum of Science in Boston, and the National Park Service.
You can view the video of her talk by clicking on the image below.
(Planet formation images courtesy NASA)