Physics Spotlight  
SARA SEAGER, Class of 1941 Professor of Physics and Planetary Science Sara Seager, Class of 1941 Professor of Physics and Planetary Science
Photo: Justin Knight

Q&A: Sara Seager, exoplanet explorer

In a field that has gone from controversial to crowded, the MIT planetary scientist is a leader in the search for biosignatures in the atmospheres of extrasolar worlds.

Toni Feder | Physics Today
February 27, 2019

As a graduate student in the 1990s, Sara Seager jumped at the chance to devote herself to research in the new and controversial area of exoplanets. Her risky project—trying to understand the atmospheres of hot Jupiters — and the broader effort to find and interpret other planetary systems have exploded into a hot field, and Seager is still in the thick of it.

After stints at the Institute for Advanced Study and the Carnegie Institution of Washington, in 2007 she joined the MIT faculty in physics and planetary sciences. She is currently the deputy science director on the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which is scouring the skies for small exoplanets, and a key mover behind starshade, a plan to occult stars to reveal their planets. (See story in Physics Today, March 2019, page 24.)

For Seager, searching for exoplanets is a journey of exploration. “It’s not that I want to meet the alien—of course we all want to meet the little green humanoid—but it’s that sense of ‘What is out there? Who is out there?’ ” she says. “The fact that we can use physics and observations and tie them together to try to infer what’s out there is so exciting.”

[Reproduced from Physics Today, 27 Feb 2019 in People & History (DOI:10.1063/PT.6.4.20190227a,) with the permission of the American Institute of Physics.]

Physics in the News icon