Since the discovery of the first planets beyond the solar system more than 25 years ago, the field of exoplanet science has expanded rapidly. We now know of more than 4,000 confirmed exoplanets, most of which bear little resemblance to the planets within our Solar System. Dr. Lewis will discuss the methods used to both detect exoplanets and study them in detail. With current and upcoming observational facilities such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the soon to launch James Webb Space Telescope, researchers will have the opportunity to study the atmospheres of these distant worlds. Such observations provide a critical step in understanding planet formation and assessing the potential habitability of exoplanets. Finally, she will discuss recent results and provide a look forward to future observations that will help us to answer the question “Are we alone in the Universe?”
Dr. Nikole Lewis is an Assistant Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University and Deputy Director of the Carl Sagan Institute. Dr. Lewis is involved with dozens observational campaigns with the former Spitzer, current Hubble and future Webb Space Telescopes and ground-based facilities that aim to determine the nature of exoplanet atmospheres. She also develops a broad range of atmospheric models that are necessary for interpretation of current exoplanet observations and planning exoplanet observation with future facilities. Before joining the faculty at Cornell, she served as the James Webb Space Telescope project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute and was a Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.