Dear Café Scientifiquers, our next café will happen on Tuesday July 26th, 7:30pm in the back room at Yagger’s Downtown (433 W Pender). Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. Jaymie Matthews, a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UBC. The title of his talk is:

Searching for planets that are “just right”

A little more than two decades ago, we knew of only a handful of planets, those in our own Solar System.  As of 14 July 2016, there are about 3400 confirmed exoplanets and thousands more strong candidates.  We live in a revolutionary era for the understanding of the origin and evolution of planets, including our own Earth.

The statistical evidence is mounting that planets are commonplace in the Galaxy.  What about life on those planets? Life on this planet depends on building blocks of complex carbon molecules and the transport medium of liquid water.  Carbon and water molecules are found in interstellar clouds. What about liquid water oceans on alien worlds?

The first step in finding possible abodes for life is to find planets in the Habitable Zones of their stars, whose surface temperatures would allow liquid water.  “Goldilocks worlds” – not too hot, not too cold, but just right for life as we know it.

I’ll give you an update on our census of exoplanets, and the surprises so far.  How many of these are Goldilocks worlds, and what will be the next steps to see if they indeed have oceans and life?

Although there’s one Goldilocks world in our own Solar System, Earth, many are excited by the prospect of microbial life on Mars. I’ll tell you why I’d bet on life being found first not on the dusty surface of the planet Mars, but beneath the icy surface of one of the moons of Jupiter, Europa.  Goldilocks worlds must make room for Deep Habitats in our search for extraterrestrial life.


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