NASA successfully launched the Kepler satellite, which will spend 3-4 years surveying nearby stars to look for Earthlike planets. We’ve discovered lots of giant planets so far, but we know relatively little about how common smaller planets like ours are. Assuming that life elsewhere is most likely to have evolved in environments similar to our own (a reasonable guess, although it’s important to bear in mind that we don’t really know it’s right), this is obviously a really important piece of information to acquire.
I am chair of the physics department at the University of Richmond. In addition to teaching a variety of undergraduate physics courses, I work on a variety of research projects in cosmology, the study of the origin, structure, and evolution of the Universe. University of Richmond undergraduates are involved in all aspects of this research. If you want to know more about my research, ask me! View all posts by Ted Bunn