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House Committee to Hear About Exoplanet Discoveries Next Week

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 03-May-2013
Updated: 03-May-2013 01:39 PM

Two subcommittees of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing next week to learn about exoplanet discoveries, with witnesses from NASA, NSF, and the SETI Institute.

The Subcommittee on Space and the Subcommittee on Research have scheduled the following witnesses to speak about "Exoplanet Discoveries:  Have We Found Other Earths?":

  • Laurance Doyle, principal investigator, SETI Institute Center for the Study of Life in the Universe
  • John Grunsfeld, NASA Associate Administrator for Science Mission Directorate
  • James Ulvestad, Director, National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Astronomical Sciences 

NASA and NSF share responsibility for most government-funded astronomy and astrophysics research, with NASA primarily responsible for space-based systems and NSF primarily responsible for ground-based systems.  Although NASA is closely identified with the findings from its Kepler Space Telescope, researchers may be funded by either agency.  Last month, for example, an NSF-funded University of Washington associate professor, Eric Agol, discovered a small "super Earth" using data from Kepler.  The Department of Energy (DOE) also supports high energy astrophysics research.  The Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC) provides advice to all three agencies and created an Exoplanet Task Force in 2005.

The SETI Institute focuses on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and its Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe is part of that effort.   Doyle, an expert on the formation and detection of exoplanets, is a Participating Scientist on NASA's Kepler science team.  His webpage includes an interview about his current research using Kepler.

The hearing is on Thursday, May 9, at 10:00 am ET in 2318 Rayburn House Office Building.


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