Feb 4

"Characterizing 'Pale Blue Dots' in the Sky: Spectral Fingerprints of Habitability"
Lisa Kaltenegger, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

"After a decade rich in giant exoplanet detections, the detection and characterization of Earth-like planet is approaching rapidly with dedicated space observatories already in operation (Corot) or in development phase. How can we detect and characterize them? Can they be habitable? In my talk I will focus on the fascinating new results and models for Earth to super Earths as well as how we can read a planet’s spectral fingerprint and characterize if it is potentially habitable."

Feb 11

"Jumping Jack Flash, It's a Gas: Biological Methanogenesis on a Planet Near You"
David E. Graham, University of Texas at Austin, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

"As large amounts of methane have been discovered on Mars, Titan, Pluto, and "HD 189733b", news reports have touted the relationship between methane and primitive life on Earth. This seminar will explore the origins of methane on Earth - both biological and geological. The chemical signatures of earthly methane sources will be discussed as markers for determining the origin of the gas on other planets. My research group's studies on the biochemical evolution of methanogenesis show that this contemporary process is neither ancient nor primitive. We will consider the implications of this complexity on the biochemical origins of life on Earth and other locals."