These days when most of us look at the night sky, we don’t see very much. Sure, there may be a few hundred visible if we are outside the reach of the light pollution of cities, we see more. Even the faint white band of the Milky Ways billions of stars. We may pick out a constellation or two, while those who study a bit of astronomy see patterns all over the place. Now and again you may look up there and wonder if there is any life out there, in all that vast space. Around one of those faint white lights doting the sky.
When Dr. Karin Öberg looks up at the sky, she sees more than just about anyone else on Earth. When she asks the question about the possibility of life somewhere out there, she knows what to look for and how to look for it.
Dr. Öberg is a professor of Astronomy at Harvard University, where her research focuses on astrochemistry, and the processes of star and planet formation. Her expertise gives her a unique view of the composition of habitable planets. Ones in which it would be at least possible for life as we know it to exist. Of course, all her work, looking way out there, also bears tremendously on our understanding of what it means for us to have life here, on this planet.
While Host Leonard DeLorenzo is sure it doesn’t surprise anyone, that in Dr. Öberg, Harvard boasts of the leading scholars in her field, what may surprise you is that she is a practicing Catholic, who serves on the board of Directors of the Society of Catholic Scientists. Today’s episode will be the first part of a two-part episode with Dr. Öberg, as part of the short series we are running on the relationship between science and religion, and our conversation will move between her work, some questions that many of us have of someone with her expertise, and the story of her own faith journey of coming into the Catholic Church during her formative young adult year, while already deeply engaged in serious scientific pursuits.
The Oberg Astronomy Group: https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/~koberg/Home.html
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