On Friday May 17, the St. Mark's Space Program hosted the first speaker of its Space Speaker Series, Senior Lecturer of Astronomy at Bentley University, Professor George Fishman.
Professor Fishman discussed the search for life in the universe particularly related to the existence of earth-like exoplanets, engaging students with his enthusiasm and energy for the subject. Students were introduced to exoplanets and the search for them, the idea that our best chance for finding life beyond earth is to find an exoplanet similar to ours, and the ingredients that are necessary for making a habitable planet. Ultimately this culminated in an engaging narrative that wove through the connections of geoscience, biology, chemistry, and astrophysics.
The lecture left students with the simple fact that while we may find an exoplanet that possess these ingredients, it will come down to an unknown X-factor for there to be life—and ultimately what that is, we don't really know.
The St. Mark's Space Program is an extension of the School's Exploration Science curriculum, taught by Brady Loomer, now in his eighth year as a member of the St. Mark's science faculty. Exploration Science addresses topics related to human beings innate and passionate need to explore and discover. It is a mix of a more traditional survey-type astronomy course and coursework focused on other space exploration principles. Students work on understanding basic astronomical concepts, astrophysics, astro-chemistry, and astrobiology, seeking to understand definitions and functions of astronomical bodies, the solar system, the Milky Way, star formation, and basic universe theory. They will explore concepts and issues related to Earth's atmosphere and apply those to understanding how other planets' and moons' atmospheres operate. Much of the curriculum focuses on exploration techniques related to space, how known planets and moons are analyzed and explored and how new stars, planets, and other celestial bodies are discovered through multiple techniques. The program continues by studying the technology and tools necessary to explore space.