The Great Exoplanet Debate

David Grinspoon acted as moderator for Astrobiology Magazine’s Great Debate, "Expanding the Habitable Zone: The Hunt for ExoPlanets Now and Into the Future". Credit: AbSciCon 2012, GATech, NASA

Astrobiology Magazine recently hosted a Great Exoplanet Debate during the 2012 Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon 2012) in Atlanta, Georgia. The panelists were David Grinspoon of the Denver Museum if Nature & Science, Sara Seager of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dirk Schulze-Makuch of Washington State University, Vikki Meadows of the University of Washington, and Eric Ford of the University of Florida. Click here to watch a video of the entire debate.

The panel of experts discussed questions such as: What should the priorities be in the search for planets in the galaxy? How accurate can we be in identifying habitable, Earth-like worlds around distant stars using current technology? Rather than focusing solely on Earth-like planets, should the discussion be expanded to ask where we can find habitable planets?

Participants included (clockwise from top left): Sara Seager, Dirk Schulze-Makuch, Vikki Meadows, and Eric Ford. Credit: AbSciCon 2012, GATech, NASA

The Decadal Survey‘s recommendations for planetary missions upset many, but can the astrobiology community come to an agreement about what our priorities should be in the next decade to find and characterize habitable planets? What is the future of our search for habitable, alien worlds in light of current budget restraints and mission planning?

The Astrobiology Science Conference 2012 (AbSciCon 2012) was held April 16–20 at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. The conference was sponsored by National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Astrobiology Program and hosted by the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Ribo Evo, Center for Ribosomal Origins and Evolution. The co-Chairs of AbSciCon 2012 were Loren Williams and Eric Gaucher, both of the Georgia Institute of Technology.