MacArthur Fellowship Supports Exoplanet Breakthroughs

Sarah Seager
Credit: Sarah SeagerSarah Seager

The detection of hundreds of exoplanets is one of the most exciting stories in contemporary astronomy. These planets, which are orbiting stars other than our sun, are fascinating for many reasons, not least for the possibility that they may offer homes to extraterrestrial life. But how can we know?

Examining the atmospheres of exoplanets offers one crucial test because life is known to change the composition of atmospheric gases. However, until recently, that was deemed unfeasible because the planets are so far away.

The work of astrophysicist Sara Seager, professor of planetary science and professor of physics at MIT, has made the seemingly impossible possible. It led to the detection of an exoplanet atmosphere by the Hubble Space Telescope. Her work, which includes being a project member on the Foundation-supported “Alien Earths Initiative” at Harvard University, has been recognized in the award of a 2013 MacArthur Fellowship.

Seager is now working on nanosatellites called ExoplanetSat, a fleet of ultra-small and economical space telescopes that would open up new avenues in space exploration. A visionary scientist contributing importantly in every aspect of her field, Seager is finding new celestial frontiers and fueling curiosity about life in worlds beyond our reach.

Click here to learn more about Seager and her work.