Artist's concept of mini planetary system found by Kepler. Credit: NASA
Artist's concept of mini planetary system. Credit: NASA

NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope has been given more time to look for life-supporting planets outside our own solar system. The project, which has found more than 2,000 planets since it was launched in 2009, recently edged out several popular space programs to secure an extension in funding. Geoff Marcy is one of the world’s most prolific planet hunters. He’s an astronomer at UC Berkeley and works on the Kepler project. KQED’s Andrea Kissack asked him for an update and his thoughts on the odds that the project may help find life somewhere else in the universe.

I met with Marcy in his office in the astronomy building on the south side of UC Berkeley. If anyone is going to find alien life, it will be Marcy. He has spotted more extra solar planets than most astronomers and he now has taken on yet another project as the new chair of the SETI program at UC Berkeley. Marcy sees his work with Kepler, and the ground based radio receivers of SETI, dovetailing nicely. As the Kepler project continues to find earth like planets, the next step, he says, will be to see if there are intelligent civilizations out there. The way to do that, Marcy says, is to use Kepler to narrow down the choices and then use SETI to point radio receivers at those specific planets, rather than just listening to broad swaths of the sky.

More on the search for exoplanets

Is Anyone Out There? 2 October,2015Andrea Kissack

Author

Andrea Kissack

Andrea has nearly three decades of experience working as a reporter, anchor, producer and editor for public radio, large market television news and CBS radio. In her current role as KQED’s Sr. Science Editor, Andrea helps lead a talented team covering science, technology, health and the environment for broadcast and digital platforms. Most recently she helped KQED launch a new, multimedia initiative covering the intersection of technology, health and medical science. She has earned a number of accolades for her work including awards from the Radio and Television News Directors Association, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the Associated Press. Her work can be seen, and heard, on a number of networks, Including NPR, PBS, CBS and the BBC.

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