Paul Kalas

Paul Kalas
Research Scientist

I am a research scientist here a the SETI Institute and currently an Associate Adjunct Professor in the Astronomy Department at the University of California, Berkeley.

My expertise is in providing direct images of planetary systems around nearby stars. I use some of the world's most advanced observatories, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, Keck Observatory, and the Gemini Telescopes. One of my most well-known images is the planetary system surrounding Fomalhaut (see below), which is a bright star located 25 light years away in the constellation Pisces Australis. Though direct images are difficult to obtain and currently quite rare, they provide unique and fundamental information about exoplanetary systems, such as:

  • The masses of exoplanets, by analyzing how bright they appear and how stable their orbits should be assuming different properties.
  • Their composition, by analyzing the color of thermal emission from the planet, or by obtaining a spectrum.
  • The origin of exoplanets, by comparing their current observed properties with simulations of how planets form in a circumstellar disk and subsequently evolve.

Ultimately, these data will give us an empirical notion of how common or rare our own planetary system must be in our own galaxy and throughout the universe.

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