Father George Coyne, an astronomer and Jesuit priest, Lynn Rothschild, an astrobiologist, offer their unique perspectives on the question and potential of extraterrestrial life.
Is the Earth the only place where life was realized? Is it possible the physical universe offered other potential niches for life?
Father George Coyne
George Coyne is the former director of the Vatican Observatory and the President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation. The Vatican Observatory is one of the oldest astronomical research institutions in the world, and its research group operates the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) at the Mount Graham International Observatory (MGIO) in southeastern Arizona.
It does leading research on current issues in astronomy such as dark matter, dark energy, quasars, and supernovae. Dr. Coyne has published many papers on polarimetric studies of interstellar medium, stars with extended atmospheres, interacting binary star systems that give off sudden bursts of intense energy, and dust about young stars.
The asteroid 14429 Coyne discovered by Shoemaker and Levy is named for him. Dr. Coyne has commented often on the differences between science and theology, for example, opposing intelligent design as defined by many of its supporters. Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, interviewed Dr. Coyne for Dawkins' television program The Genius of Charles Darwin in the UK.
Lynn Rothschild is an evolutionary biologist-astrobiologist at NASA's Ames Research Center and a consulting professor at Stanford and Brown Universities where she teaches Astrobiology and Space Exploration.
Dr. Rothchild's research has focused on how life, particularly microbes, has evolved in the context of the physical environment on Earth and potentially elsewhere in the solar system and universe. Her work has taken her to the harsh environments in some wild places on Earth. Most recently she has taken to the air in conjunction with the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department at Stanford, flying experiments up to 106,000 feet on high altitude balloons.
Dr. Rothschild has appeared on a number of Naked Science TV programs on the National Geographic Channel and on the Alien Faces episode for The Universe TV program on the History Channel.
Simon P. Worden
Simon P. ("Pete") Worden, Ph.D. (Brig. Gen., USAF, Ret.) is Director of NASA's Ames Research Center (ARC) at Moffett Field, Calif. Before joining NASA, he held several positions in the United States Air Force and was research professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona, Tucson. He is a recognized expert on space issues – both civil and military. Dr. Worden has authored or co-authored more than 150 scientific papers in astrophysics, space sciences, and strategic studies. He served as a scientific co-investigator for two NASA space science missions, and received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal for the 1994 Clementine mission. He has been named the 2009 Federal Laboratory Consortium Laboratory Director of the Year.