Date: Friday 14th October | Time: 2.15pm – 3.15pm

Professor Martin A Barstow

Martin Barstow joined the University of Leicester in 1979, becoming Professor of Astrophysics & Space Science (2003), Head of Physics & Astronomy (2005-09), Pro-Vice Chancellor/Head of Science & Engineering (2009-16) and Pro-Vice Chancellor/Director of the Leicester Institute of Space & Earth Observation (2016-19). His research is into hot white dwarf stars and the interstellar medium and he has published more than 450 papers. He has been involved in many space missions, including Voyager, ROSAT, EUVE, FUSE, Hubble and ESA’s Gaia astrometry mission. He has been a member of the ESA Astronomy Working Group, UKSA Science Programme Advisory Committee and President of the Royal Astronomical Society (2014-16). In 2019, he chaired the programme committee of the UK Space Conference. He is currently Chair of Space Telescope Institute Council, a member of the board of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy and was appointed Chair of the UK Space Agency Science Programme Advisory Committee in July 2019. He is the originator of the concept of Space Park Leicester, creating an economic space cluster with industry partners, a leader in its development and is Director of Strategic Partnerships for the project. He also leads the SPRINT project, supporting growth of small companies in the space sector.



Lecture synopsis


“Are We Alone? – The Real Science Behind the Search for Extraterrestrial Life”

Until very recently, the idea of searching for extra-terrestrial life in the Universe lay in the realms of science fiction. However, since the mid-1990s it has been possible to detect and study planets orbiting stars other than our Sun. As instrumentation has developed and improved we can learn more and more about these planets. At the same time, our exploration of the Solar system has revealed more about the possible habitability of its planets and their moons. As a result, the search for signs of life now has considerable scientific credibility. With future space exploration missions and space telescopes, the answer to the question “Are we alone?” is almost within our grasp. This talk will review the scientific search for “aliens”, look at the technologies needed to succeed in that search and discuss the plans of the major space agencies to deliver the answer.