The Search for Earth

Dr. John Armstrong
Department of Physics
Weber State University

Recent planet searches have uncovered over 200 planets outside our own solar system, enough to derive mass distributions, statistics on orbital properties, and, in several cases, enough information to determine planet densities and compositions.  As such, we are on the doorstep of a new era in planetary exploration.  In the next few years, NASA will launch the first telescopes capable of detected Earth sized planets, and, eventually, launch extended missions capable of characterizing the atmospheres of such planets in an effort to search for life.  I will discuss the ongoing efforts of NASA's Virtual Planetary Laboratory to explore the possible parameter space such "earth-like" planets may inhabit, and discuss the computer simulations we are using to inform the engineering for NASA's future Terrestrial Planet Finders.