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  Webfooted Astronomer

September 1998

Are We Alone in the Universe?

by George Best
September Meeting

Guillermo Gonzales,
University of Washington

Wednesday, September 16
7:30 p.m.

A-102 Astronomy Building
University of Washington

Come early at 7 p.m. to visit
with your fellow members

Bring your slides to show
after the program

You say Mars may show some signs of life? The climate on Mars is so severe that this appears doubtful. There are those who think otherwise, I know, but I suspect that this is just wishful thinking. If life exists outside of Earth, it has to be on a planet similar to ours and orbiting a different star. Life canít form on just any old planet as Guillermo Gonzales discusses in a July 16, 1997, Wall Street Journal article called "Nobody Here But Us Earthlings."

At this monthís Seattle Astronomical Society (SAS) meeting, Gonzales, professor of astronomy at the University of Washington, will talk about extra-solar planets. How do we find them? What are they like? Astronomers have already found several planets the size of Jupiter or larger. Since they canít look at them directly, they study their effects on the motion of the stars they orbit.

We have yet to find one the size of Earth, which is much more difficult. A planet like our own is the most likely place for life outside our solar system. Even then, there are many other conditions that have to be met. How many other Earths are there out there? Maybe there is nobody else, and we are alone after all. The meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. on September 16 in the UW Astronomy Building.

Editor's Note: For more information on the University of Washington Astronomy Department, see

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