Wed Jan 8 (Hour 2-3) Professor Erik Asphaug – When the Earth Had Two Moons

Why are planets so diverse? Are planets like ours inevitable? Why are we here?

Erik Asphaug takes us on an exhilarating tour through the farthest reaches of time and our galaxy to discuss the endlessly varied landscapes to be found throughout the universe, including those that are habitable, and the solar-planetary engines that drive them, and how they got to be so diverse. The mini-neptunes and super-Earths, the hot Jupiters and the resonant chains of moons, and the holy grail of astronomy right now, the “Earthlike planets” of which there may be tens of thousands in our galaxy alone.

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Erik Asphaug was born in 1961 in Oslo, Norway, to parents who had immigrated to California. He grew up in California and Texas, and then in Norway for his teenage years. He majored in English and Math at Rice University, and then taught high school in Minneapolis and Tucson. He tried graduate studies at the University of Arizona, and has been a planetary scientist ever since. In 1998 he won the Urey Prize of the American Astronomical Society, and asteroid 7939 Asphaug recognizes his research in planetary physics. He’s contributed to deep space exploration missions from Galileo to MMX. He was a founding member of the planetary sciences program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he was a professor, and was Ronald Greeley Chair of Planetary Sciences at Arizona State University from 2012 to 2017. Now he is a professor at the University of Arizona, back in Tucson, and lives with his family in the Santa Rita foothills.