MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov

Contact: Michelle Viotti

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 14, 2000

JPL LECTURE WILL REVEAL NOVEL PLANET-FINDING TECHNIQUES

       "Interferometry: Seeing New Worlds" is a public lecture that will explain how researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are developing innovative technologies to look for planets around distant stars.

       Dr. Michael Shao, director of the Interferometry Center of Excellence at JPL and the project scientist for NASA's Space Interferometry Mission, (SIM) will make the presentation, which is part of JPL's von Karman Lecture Series, on Thursday, April 20 at JPL, and, Friday, April 21 at Pasadena City College. Both lectures begin at 7 p.m. Admission is free, and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

       Detecting planets outside of our solar system is challenging because the tiny, pale planets are typically lost from view in the intense glare of light from their parent star. Interferometry is a new technology that gets past this obstacle by allowing astronomers to measure a star's position accurately enough to detect small "wobbles" caused by the gravitational pull of any orbiting planets. This observing method also suppresses the light of the star so that the dim light of planets can be distinguished.

       JPL's Keck Interferometer and the Space Interferometry Mission are two near-term projects that will make significant advances in detecting planets beyond our solar system. SIM will be one of the very first space-based opportunities to use interferometry for seeing new worlds, potentially giving us the first evidence of another Earth-like planet.

       The lecture on April 20 is at JPL, 4800 Oak Grove Dr., Pasadena, off the 210 (Foothill) freeway. Detailed directions are available at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/tours/routes.html . The April 21 lecture is at Pasadena City College's Forum at 1570 E. Colorado Blvd.

       More information about the von Karman Lecture Series is available at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/lecture/ .

       JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology.

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