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Ingenious: Lisa Kaltenegger

Stories about a life spent searching for life among the stars.

Lisa Kaltenegger can take you there. That’s the feeling you get after a couple of hours of conversation with the exoplanet researcher:…By Michael Segal

Lisa Kaltenegger can take you there. That’s the feeling you get after a couple of hours of conversation with the exoplanet researcher: Whether it’s to distant water-worlds or to an undergraduate classroom, her enthusiasm, patience, and humor transport you. After taking us on a tour of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Kaltenegger sat down with us to talk about the latest in the hunt for planets—and life—among the stars, and how she got involved. Movies too. We’re sure you’ll enjoy meeting her as much as we did. Our interview is divided into two sections, the professional (above) and the more personal. And check out her Nautilus essay, “Worlds Without End.”

The Professional

What might it be like on the surface of an interesting exoplanet? 0:08

Would this be the ultimate surfing destination? 2:25

Can we search for life by looking for alien technologies? 3:47

Will ET Drink Water?

A team of astronomers announced this year that they had found no fewer than eight planets orbiting the so-called Goldilocks zone around their parent stars, inside which the temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold to support life as...READ MORE

What effect do you think finding extraterrestrial life would have? 6:17

We haven’t found life yet. Are other species out there destroying themselves? 8:07

If we find extraterrestrial life, will it be carbon-based? 10:41

If extraterrestrial life isn’t carbon-based, are we looking for the wrong signatures? 12:38

Do you compare different geographies found here on Earth to potential exoplanets? 16:17

What’s the hardest exoplanet geography for you to detect? 18:06

Are we going to start traveling to other planets soon? 19:49

As an exoplanet researcher, are you drawing the map for tomorrow’s explorers? 22:10

The Person

Why is Carl Sagan a hero of yours? 0:08

Do you like science fiction? 1:23

Do you want to go to Mars? 5:58

Is it important to have prominent female scientists? 7:25

Did your gender impede your career? 12:09

How did you become interested in astronomy? 15:29

What would you be if you weren’t a scientist? 19:36

How does your work change how you look at the night sky? 21:02

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