Nader Haghighipour, an astronomer at the Institute for Astronomy and the NASA Astrobiology Institute at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has been elected president of Division F (planetary systems and astrobiology) of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) for 2015–18. Haghighipour will have an important role in promoting and encouraging the study of planetary systems around our sun and outside our solar system, as well as the search for life in the universe, one of the most vital fields of astronomy today.
In the last 20 years, nearly 2,000 exoplanets have been discovered and that number will continue to grow rapidly. Several of these planets are potentially capable of harboring life.
In addition, there have been numerous space missions to bodies within our solar system that have greatly increased our knowledge of these relatively close worlds. Two have recently been in the news: New Horizons, which flew by Pluto and its moons and Rosetta, which has been exploring Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Haghighipour at forefront of search for habitable planets
Haghighipour’s research interests include the formation, detection and dynamical evolution of extrasolar planets (especially potentially habitable ones), planets in binary star systems, the origin of Earth’s water and astrobiology. He edited the volume Planets in Binary Star Systems, and more recently, Formation, Detection and Characterization of Extrasolar Habitable Planets, the proceedings of an IAU symposium held in Beijing in 2012.
In 2012 he received a Humboldt Research Fellowship award, which he used to spend 2013–14 in Germany at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg and the University of Tuebingen.
Division F promotes studies of planetary systems
Division F deals with our solar system, extrasolar planetary systems and astrobiology. It promotes studies of planetary systems, including our own, aimed at the understanding of their formation and evolution, from the point of view of the dynamics and of the physics, as well as of the occurrence of conditions favorable to the development of life in the universe. It also promotes the dissemination of reliable physical and dynamical data about astronomical objects in our solar system and other planetary systems and oversees the assignment of proper nomenclature and discovery credits, where appropriate.
The IAU will be holding its triennial General Assembly at the Honolulu Convention Center August 3–14. More than 2,500 astronomers from 75 countries are expected to attend.
—By Louise Good