Sara Seager

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Sara Seager
Seager at a 2016 conference
Born (1971-07-21) 21 July 1971 (age 52)[1]
Toronto, Ontario, Canada[2]
Residence Concord, Massachusetts, US
Nationality Canadian-American
Citizenship Canada-United States[1]
Alma mater Harvard University PhD
University of Toronto BSc
Known for Search for extrasolar planets
Spouse(s) Charles Darrow
Children 2
Awards MacArthur Fellowship (2013)
Helen B. Warner Prize (2007)
Harvard Bok Prize in Astronomy (2004)
NSERC Science and Technology Fellowship (1990–1994)
Scientific career
Fields Astronomy, Planetary science
Institutions Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2007–)
Carnegie Institution of Washington (2002–2006)
Institute for Advanced Study (1999–2002)
Thesis Extrasolar giant planets under strong stellar irradiation (1999)
Doctoral advisor Dimitar Sasselov[3][4]
External video
Sara Seager, “The search for planets beyond our solar system”, TED2015
“Space Experts Discuss the Search for Life in the Universe at NASA”, NASA 2014
“Sara Seager ”, Origins 2011

Sara Seager (born 21 July 1971) is a Canadian-American astronomer and planetary scientist.[2] She is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is known for her work on extrasolar planets and their atmospheres. She is the author of two textbooks on these topics,[5][6] and has been recognized for her research by Popular Science,[7] Discover Magazine,[8] Nature,[9] and TIME Magazine.[10] Seager was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2013 citing her theoretical work on detecting chemical signatures on exoplanet atmospheres and developing low-cost space observatories to observe planetary transits.[11]

Background[edit | hide | hide all]

Seager was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and is Jewish.[2][12][13] Her father, Dr. David Seager, who lost his own hair when he was 19 years old, was a pioneer and one of the world's leaders in hair transplantation and the founder of the Seager Hair Transplant Center in Toronto.[14][15]

She earned the degree of Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Physics from the University of Toronto in 1994, assisted by a NSERC University Undergraduate Student Research Award, and a PhD in astronomy from Harvard University in 1999. Her doctoral thesis developed theoretical models of atmospheres on extrasolar planets and was supervised by Dimitar Sasselov.[3][4][16]

She held a postdoctoral research fellow position at the Institute for Advanced Study between 1999 and 2002 and a senior research staff member at the Carnegie Institution of Washington until 2006. She joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in January 2007 as an associate professor in both physics and planetary science, was granted tenure in July 2007,[17] and was elevated to full professor in July 2010.[18] She currently holds the "Class of 1941" chair.[1]

She is married to Charles Darrow and they have two sons from her first marriage. Her first spouse, Michael Wevrick, died of cancer in 2011.[19][20]

Academic research[edit | hide]

Seager talking about exoplanets

NASA referred to her as "an astronomical Indiana Jones".[21] Sara Seager used the term "gas dwarf" for a high-mass super-Earth-type planet composed mainly of hydrogen and helium in an animation of one model of the exoplanet Gliese 581 c. The term "gas dwarf" has also been used to refer to planets smaller than gas giants, with thick hydrogen and helium atmospheres.[22][23]

Seager was awarded the 2012 Sackler Prize for "analysis of the atmospheres and internal compositions of extra-solar planets",[24] the Helen B. Warner Prize from the American Astronomical Society in 2007 for developing "fundamental techniques for understanding, analyzing, and finding the atmospheres of extrasolar planets.[25] and the 2004 Harvard Bok Prize in Astronomy.[26] She was appointed as a fellow to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012 and elected to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada as an honorary member in 2013.[1] In September 2013 she became a MacArthur Fellow.[27] She was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2018.[28]

Seager equation[edit | hide]

Seager developed a parallel version of the Drake equation to estimate the number of habitable planets in the galaxy.[29] Instead of aliens with radio technology, Seager has revised the Drake equation to focus on simply the presence of any alien life detectable from Earth. The equation focuses on the search for planets with biosignature gases, gases produced by life that can accumulate in a planet atmosphere to levels that can be detected with remote space telescopes.[29]


where: N = the number of planets with detectable signs of life

N* = the number of stars observed

FQ = the fraction of stars that are quiet

FHZ = the fraction of stars with rocky planets in the habitable zone

Fo = the fraction of those planets that can be observed

FL = the fraction that have life

FS = the fraction on which life produces a detectable signature gas

Publications[edit | hide]

Books[edit | hide]

  • Deming, D., & Seager, S. eds. 2003, "Scientific Frontiers in Research on Extrasolar Planets", ASP Conf. Ser. 294 (San Francisco: ASP)
  • Seager, Sara (2010). Exoplanet Atmospheres: Physical Processes. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9781400835300. 
  • Seager, Sara (2010). Exoplanets. University of Arizona Press. ISBN 978-0-8165-2945-2. 

Journal articles[edit | hide]

YouTube videos[edit | hide]

“Space Experts Discuss the Search for Life in the Universe at NASA”

References[edit | hide]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Curricula Vitae – Professor Sara Seager" (PDF). 2013. Retrieved 25 September 2013. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Jones, Chris (7 December 2016). "'The World Sees Me as the One Who Will Find Another Earth' - The star-crossed life of Sara Seager, an astrophysicist obsessed with discovering distant planets". New York Times. Retrieved 8 December 2016. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Back to the thesis: Sara Seager on YouTube
  4. 4.0 4.1 Smith, Kerri; Baker, Noah (2016). "Back to the thesis: Late nights, typos, self-doubt and despair. Francis Collins, Sara Seager and Uta Frith dust off their theses, and reflect on what the PhD was like for them". Nature. 535 (7610): 22–25. Bibcode:2016Natur.535...22S. doi:10.1038/535022a. 
  5. Seager, Sara (2010). Exoplanet Atmospheres: Physical Processes. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9781400835300. 
  6. Seager, Sara (2010). Exoplanets. University of Arizona Press. ISBN 978-0-8165-2945-2. 
  7. "The Fifth Annual Brilliant 10". Popular Science. 13 September 2006. 
  8. "20 Best Brains Under 40". Discover Magazine. 20 November 2008. 
  9. Hand, Eric (21 December 2011). "Sara Seager: Planet seeker". Nature. 
  10. Bjerklie, David (2012). "The 25 Most Influential People in Space" (PDF). TIME Magazine. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 May 2013. 
  11. "MacArthur Fellows: Meet the Class of 2013: Sara Seager". MacArthur Foundation. 24 September 2013. Retrieved 25 September 2013. 
  12. Four Jews Win MacArthur 'Genius' Awards – The Forward
  13. American Jewish Year Book 2014: The Annual Record of the North American ... - Google Books
  14. Jones, Chris (7 December 2016). "The Woman Who Might Find Us Another Earth". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  15. Mirror Earth: The Search for Our Planet's Twin - Michael D. Lemonick - Google Books
  16. Seager, Sara (1999). Extrasolar giant planets under strong stellar irradiation (PhD thesis). Harvard University. Bibcode:1999PhDT........18S. OCLC 43085140. 
  17. "MIT Corporation grants tenure to 50 faculty". MIT News Office. 14 November 2007. 
  18. "Corporation announces faculty promotions and appointments". MIT News Office. 29 December 2010. 
  19. Seager, Sara (14 January 2013). "So Many Exoplanets... So Few Women Scientists". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 25 September 2013. 
  20. "Obituary: Michael Wevrick". Ottawa Citizen. 13 August 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2013. 
  21. Rodriguez, Joshua (3 October 2008). "On a quest for astronomy's holy grail". NASA. 
  22. "Of Gas Dwarfs and Waterworlds". Celestia forum. 15 June 2004. 
  23. "StarGen – Solar System Generator". 2003. 
  24. "Sara Seager Named Co-Winner of the 2012 Sackler Prize". MIT News Office. 18 April 2012. 
  25. "Helen B. Warner Prize". American Astronomical Society. 
  26. "Bok Prize Recipients". Harvard University Department of Astronomy. 
  27. Sara Seager — MacArthur Foundation
  29. 29.0 29.1 The Drake Equation Revisited: Interview with Planet Hunter Sara Seager Devin Powell, Astrobiology Magazine 4 September 2013.

External links[edit | hide]

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This article uses material from Sara Seager on Wikipedia (view authors). License under CC BY-SA 3.0. Wikipedia logo
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