Public Star Night 17 May 2019 – Dr Dan Durda – All These Worlds: The Exoplanet Revolution

Our speaker for this evening will be Dr Dan Durda from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder and the title of his talk will be “All These Worlds: The Exoplanet Revolution”.

For generations we’ve wondered whether we are alone in the Universe. Thanks in large part to space missions like Kepler, we now know that we live in a galaxy full of diverse planetary systems. Not only are we detecting planets around thousands of other stars we are beginning to characterize them as well, revealing the vast stage for the play of life in the Universe.

Daniel D. Durda has more than twenty years of experience researching the collisional and dynamical evolution of main-belt and near-Earth asteroids, Vulcanoids, Kuiper belt comets, and interplanetary dust. His research interests include numerical modeling of the formation of asteroid satellites and observational searches for them, studies of crater ejecta generation and redistribution on asteroids, the environmental effects of asteroid and comet impacts on Earth, and airborne astronomical observations from high-performance jet aircraft.

Dr. Durda has extensive experimental experience in hypervelocity impact studies, is an active pilot with time logged in over a dozen types of aircraft including the F/A-18 Hornet and the F-104 Starfighter, and has spent over 110 minutes of time in zero-gravity conducting experiments on NASA’s KC-135 Reduced Gravity Research Aircraft. A finalist in the 2004 NASA astronaut selection, Durda is one of three SwRI payload specialists who will fly on multiple suborbital spaceflights with Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin. He serves on the Board of the B612 Foundation, served as a member of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s Suborbital Applications Researchers Group from 2008-2017, and served for over 15 years as the program coordinator for the Planetary Society’s Gene Shoemaker Near-Earth Object Grant Program. He has co-authored a book, published numerous articles popularizing planetary science and human exploration of space, and has appeared in over 70 nationally-broadcast television science documentaries. Durda is the 2015 recipient of the AAS/DPS Carl Sagan Medal “for excellence in public communication in planetary science”. Dan is a Fellow and former member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Astronomical Artists; his space art has appeared in many magazines and books and has been internationally exhibited. Dr. Durda is an experienced cave diver and holds multiple scuba and cave diving certifications, including Full Cave and Cave Recovery Specialist; until recently he served as the Colorado and Arizona Regional Coordinator for the International Underwater Cave Rescue and Recovery team.

Weather permitting after the presentation, visitors will be invited to look through our large telescope at various celestial objects. Public star nights are held the third Friday of each month, except July, when we are closed for annual maintenance.

If you have any questions, please call the observatory information line at 970-613-7793 or check the LTO web site at

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