Renowned astronomer sheds light on life in the larger cosmos

The Science in Society Speaker Series is turning to the stars to close out what has been a stellar season at the Vernon campus of Okanagan College.

Dr. Chris Impey, who is a true star among stars in the astronomical crowd, will be CDI_Office6_smallpresenting a free lecture on the compelling topic Is There Life Beyond Earth? Tuesday, April 2 at 7:30 p.m.

Impey is the Deputy Head of the Astronomy Department at the University of Arizona with more than 160 research papers to his name. He has had 14 projects approved for observations with the Hubble Space Telescope, and his work has been supported by $18-million in grants from both NASA and the National Science Foundation.

Impey is also the author of the book The Living Cosmos, which shed light on the growing field of astrobiology back in 2007, and How it Began: A Time-Traveler’s Guide to the Universe published in 2010.

Impey’s talk will summarize ideas on the definition and nature of life, the search for habitable worlds, and the ways science might detect biology in those worlds.

“The search for life in the universe addresses one of the most profound issues in science – the status of biology on Earth in a cosmos that is likely to contain many habitable planets with all the ingredients needed for biology,” Impey said.

Impey has been exemplified for his teaching skills, having received 11 awards, including being named National Science Foundation Distinguished Teaching Scholar by the Carnegie Foundation.

The free event is sponsored by the American Astronomical Society as part of its Harlow Shapley Visiting Lectureship program.

This past season the Science in Society Speaker Series has provided lectures to the public from some of the biggest scientific names in Western Canada, and North America – including paleontologist Dr. Phil Currie, neurobiologist Dr. Lara Boyd, and most recently molecular epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Gardy.

“We aim to cover a variety of scienceareas – thinking in particular what might be especially topical from a public point of view,” said Okanagan College Chemistry professor Carl Doige, who helps coordinate the series along with the Okanagan Science Centre.

Doige said the society operates on a small budget and he’s often amazed as to how many speakers are willing to come with either no or a discounted speaker fee.

“We are very happy that we are able to provide an avenue for our students and the general public to be better informed about issues related to science and society from the scientists who are at the forefront of their respective areas,” he said.

The Science in Society Speaker Series is also sponsored by Starbucks Coffee, and the Vernon Morning Star.

For more information, visit the Okanagan Science Centre at http://www.okscience.ca or call (250) 545-3644.

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