Faculty Research Lecture 2012 Professor Steve Vogt

Photograph of Professor Steve Vogt courtesy of Laurie Hatch

The 2012 Faculty Research Lecture was held on Tuesday February 28 at 7pm at the Music Recital Hall at Performing Arts.


The foremost academic research honor bestowed by the Santa Cruz Division of the Academic Senate is awarded annually to a faculty member who has a distinguished record in research.

Across a Sea of Suns: Charting Distant Worlds, Other Earths

This talk will chronicle a 16-year search using the telescopes at UC's Lick and Keck Observatories to find potentially habitable Earth-like worlds around the nearest stars, worlds that our distant space faring descendants may someday travel to and ultimately inhabit. Well over 1000 planets are now known in and around our stellar neighborhood, but almost all are large gas giants like Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, and Uranus, or small hellish rocky worlds equivalent to Earth-sized glowing charcoal briquets. Few if any are likely to provide habitable conditions where life might flourish. In the continuing push to find Earth-like worlds, our search has recently achieved a major milestone: the detection of rocky planets that are nearly Earth-sized, and that orbit in the Habitable Zone of their star. These planets are very stable places where surface water could exist in liquid form for the billions of years required for evolution to work its magic. They are a key part of the answer to the question- "Is there life elsewhere in the Universe?".

Steven Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics, has designed, built, and used high-precision spectrometers to find new worlds outside our solar system during his 33 years with UCSC.

In 2010, Vogt and a team of planet hunters announced the discovery of an Earth-sized planet orbiting a nearby star at a distance that placed it squarely in the middle of the star's "habitable zone," where liquid water could exist on the planet's surface. Further observations are needed to confirm the discovery, which remains controversial.

Click here to view the CFRL nomination of Steve Vogt for the 2011-12 FRL