Interview with Dr. Sara Seager

Interview with Dr. Sara Seager

OPEN was honored to host Dr. Sara Seager, a world-renowned expert in the search for life beyond earth.  Co-hosted by Ashley Ruiz and Syra Mehdi of OPEN’s Women in Sci-Tech Series, Dr. Seager updated us on her and her colleagues’ potentially civilization-altering work since our last interview in 2016.  

​In the conversation we discussed the recent unexpected but tantalizing findings of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus (possibly signaling microbial life), and the search for life within our own solar system on Mars and in the subsurface seas of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.  We also discussed new telescopes and technologies about to be commissioned and launched deep into space as well as future probes to Venus, and a fleet of small lightsails (microchip ships) to our nearest stars.  

We got an update on a starshade system Dr. Seager and her team have designed and recently proposed.  With such a starshade system they would be able to actually image other planets (Exoplanets) around distant stars that are less luminous than our sun.  Many of these new technologies will be searching for Earth-like rocky worlds as well as a new class of planets called sub-Neptune planets, and even Exo-moons.  

The James Webb space telescope slated for launch in October of 2021 will be measuring the gases in the atmospheres of some of these planets to determine if life somewhat akin to ours exists out there.  We also discussed SETI and the recent mysterious shiny visitor from another solar system Oumuamua (which is the Hawaiian word for “scout”).  

Please give a watch, as young apprentice astronomers will find lots of inspiration from Professor Seager’s words to hopefully come up with novel next generation technologies to further advance this ground-breaking research.