Are there inhabited worlds other than our own? Although humans have pondered this
for generations, this is the first time that we have the technological
ability to answer it. In the past year astronomers have found the first
Earth-sized worlds orbiting other Suns, and the first exoplanets with the
right temperature for liquid water. If we can study the atmospheres of such planets,
we can search for the telltale molecular fingerprints of life.
David Charbonneau is a professor of astronomy at Harvard University. He
led the first studies of the compositions of exoplanets and of their
atmospheres, and he is a member of the NASA Kepler Mission to find
Earth-like planets. Dr. Charbonneau has received numerous awards for his
research, including the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement,
and he was named Scientist of the Year by Discovery Magazine.