Hannah Wakeford being interviewed by Dr Chris Lintott in the Alumni Auditorium about detecting and analysing the atmospheres of exoplanets / the Exoclimes Project (credit: BBC/Simon Mackie).

Exeter host BBC’s Sky at Night

Pioneering research carried out at the University of Exeter into the remarkable atmospheric properties of exoplanets will feature in a forthcoming episode of the BBC’s much-loved astronomy programme, the Sky at Night.

Postgraduate student Hannah Wakeford, from the University of Exeter’s Physics and Astronomy programme, will be discussing the department’s pioneering research into exoplanets – or planets that orbit other stars – on the hugely popular show, on Sunday, 14 September.

A number of locations across the University’s Streatham Campus – including the central Forum building - will also feature over the course of the programme, titled ‘The Hunt for ET’.

Speaking ahead of the broadcast Hannah, an Astrophysics student, said: “The Sky at Night is a fantastic institution to communicate current scientific research to the interest public. It was great to be able to discuss the extent of information we have on exoplanet atmospheres and the amazing speed of progress in the field.”

The University of Exeter has one of the UK’s largest astrophysics groups working in the fields of star formation and exoplanet research. The group focuses on some of the most fundamental problems in modern astronomy – when do stars and planets form and how does it happen?

They conduct observations with the world’s leading telescopes and carry out numerical simulations to study young stars, their planet-forming discs, and exoplanets. This research helps to put our Sun and the solar system into context and understand the variety of stars and planetary systems that exist in our Galaxy.

Professor Ken Evans, Dean of the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences said: “We are delighted to have been able to host the Sky at Night for this fascinating programme.

“Our research here at Exoplanets is playing a pivotal role in shaping our understanding of what lies beyond our own solar system, and Hannah is one of an exceptional team of staff and students within the department producing this world-leading research.”

The programme, presented by Dr Chris Lintott, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock and guest presenter and geneticist Dr Adam Rutherford, will discuss the period of unprecedented change that is currently taking place in exoplanet research, and whether any could harbour life.

The Sky at Night’s The Hunt for ET, will be shown on BBC4 on Sunday, September 14 at 10pm. It will be repeated on the same channel on Thursday, September 18 at 7.30pm.

Date: 12 September 2014

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