Newswise — Planet-hunting telescopes have recently taken a huge leap in their ability to find “exoplanets,” or planets orbiting other stars. In just the past six months, astronomers have announced the discovery of more than 700 such worlds, bringing the total to more than 1,700. These discoveries include the first Earth-size planet found in what’s called the habitable zone of a star, where liquid water could exist; the oldest known planet that could support life; and the first rocky “mega-Earth,” a planet that’s much like Earth except that it’s 17 times more massive.

On July 9, 12:00-12:30 pm PDT, three exoplanet hunters discuss the recent uptick in known planets beyond our solar system, consider the next steps in the hunt for habitable worlds, and ponder the odds of finding evidence of life on another planet.

PROGRAM DETAILSWHEN: July 9 (Wednesday), 12:00 – 12:30 pm PDTWHERE:

HOW TO SUBMIT QUESTIONS: Questions can be submitted ahead of and during this webcast by email to [email protected] or use the hashtag #KavliLive on Google+ or Twitter. WEBMASTERS: An embed code is available. Submit request to: [email protected]

ABOUT THE PARTICIPANTSZACHORY BERTA-THOMPSON - Dr. Berta-Thompson is the Torres Fellow for Exoplanetary Research at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. He hunts for exoplanets as a member of the MEarth Project, a survey to find small planets orbiting the closest, smallest stars. BRUCE MACINTOSH - Dr. Macintosh is the principal investigator for the Gemini Planet Imager, which searches for planets from the Gemini South telescope. GPI recently snapped its first image, thereby producing the best-ever direct photo of a planet outside our solar system. Dr. Macintosh is also a Professor of Physics at Stanford University and a member of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology.

MARIE-EVE NAUD - Ms. Naud is the University of Montreal PhD student who led analysis that recently uncovered a previously unknown giant planet using infrared light. The planet, known as GU Pisces b, is one of the most unusual exoplanets found to-date, with a mass 10 times greater than Jupiter's and orbiting its star at 2,000 times the distance between Earth and our sun.