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

DR Chris Copperwheat

Dr. Chris Copperwheat is the Liverpool Telescope Astronomer-in-Charge at the Astrophysics Research Institute of Liverpool John Moores University. He obtained his PhD from University College London in 2007, and following a postdoctoral research position at the University of Warwick, he joined the Liverpool Telescope Group in September 2012. As well as being responsible for the day-to-day operations of the world’s largest robotic telescope dedicated to science, he is the project scientist for a proposed successor facility, the Large Robotic Telescope, which will begin construction on the Canary island of La Palma within the next few years. His research interests are based around ‘time domain’ astronomy – the study of variability in objects. A key focus of his work has been the study of white dwarfs and black holes in binary systems, but more recently he has been participating in the search for sources of gravitational waves and the observation of transiting exoplanets.

Lecture synopsis

TRAPPIST-1 system

The field of exoplanet science has grown over the past couple of decades to be one of the most important topics in modern astrophysics. Detections are now routine and the number of known planets orbiting stars other than our own number in the thousands. As we have refined our techniques and developed new instrumentation it has become possible to detect smaller and smaller planets, and we are now beginning to explore the population of Earth-sized planets in the local Universe. Even more exciting is the fact that we are starting to discover numerous examples of such planets in the Habitable Zones of their parent stars, making them tantalizing prospects for the search for extraterrestrial life. The past year has seen a number of fascinating discoveries, such as the planet around our nearest neighbour Proxima Centauri, and the incredible TRAPPIST-1 system containing no less than seven Earth sized worlds. In this talk I will review the current state of exoplanet science, with a focus on the search for other-Earths and extraterrestrial life. I will discuss the technology that we use now and will use in the coming years, which we believe is bringing us ever closer to one of the most important discoveries in human history.