David Charbonneau is a professor of astronomy at Harvard University. His research focuses on the development of new techniques that will help detect and characterize exoplanets. From using a 4-inch telescope to make the first detection of an exoplanet eclipsing its parent star, to pioneering the use of space-based observatories to study the atmospheres of distant worlds, Charbonneau aims to find Earth-like planets that might be suitable for life beyond the Solar system. In 2007, he was named Discover Magazine's Scientist of the Year.

Ray Jayawardhana is an astronomer at the University of Toronto and an award-winning science writer. His primary research areas include the formation and early evolution of stars, brown dwarfs and planets. Recently, he and his collaborators reported the first direct image and spectroscopy of a likely extra-solar planet around a normal star. He organized the Cool Cosmos ad campaign, an innovative science outreach program that debuted on Toronto Transit Commission vehicles. He is the author or editor of three books, including Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets and Life Beyond Our Solar System. He is also a contributing editor to Astronomy magazine. In 2009, he was named to Canada's Top 40 Under 40.

Geoff Marcy is an American astronomer and a professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley. He is known for discovering the most extrasolar planets – 70 out of the first 100 to be discovered – along with fellow astronomer, R. Paul Butler and Professor Debra Fischer. Some of Marcy's other notable achievements include the discoveries of a multiple planet system around a star similar to our sun, the first transiting planet around another star, and the first Neptune-sized planets. He is featured on History Channel's The Universe programs and has been interviewed several times by Planetary Radio.

Jaymie Matthews is an astrophysicist and associate professor of astronomy at the University of British Columbia. Matthews is the leading expert in the field of stellar seismology. He refers to himself as an astro-paparazzo who uses the surface vibrations of stars to unveil their hidden interiors and histories. He is the lead scientist behind the MOST (Microvariability & Oscillations of STars) mission. MOST is Canada's first and only space telescope, the smallest in orbit (its nickname is the "Humble Space Telescope), and the first spacecraft dedicated to the study of asteroseismology. Matthews is an often invited speaker at meetings around the world and makes frequent appearances on CityTV Vancouver and the specialty channel SPACE.

Victoria Meadows is an astrobiologist and planetary astronomer at the University of Washington. She is also the principal investigator for the NASA Astrobiology Institute's Virtual Planetary Laboratory Lead Team. Her NAI team uses models of planets to generate plausible planetary environments for extrasolar planets and the early Earth. Her research helps define signs of habitability and life for future extrasolar terrestrial planet detection and characterization missions.

Jason Rowe is a Kepler mission scientist and research scientist at the SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) Institute. He received his M.Sc. and Ph.D. in astronomy and physics from The University of British Columbia. Rowe uses scientific plotting software to visualize Kepler's discoveries, illustrating the way Kepler uses periodic brightness fluctuations in stars to find exoplanets.

Sara Seager is a Toronto-born astrophysicist and planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research has introduced many new ideas to the field of exoplanet characterization, including work that led to the first detection of an exoplanet atmosphere. Her Space Instrumentation group is working on a demonstration mission called ExoplanetSat. The mission is intended to be the first of a planned fleet of nanosatellites that will search for unmapped Earth-like planets – a complement to existing planet hunters, like the Kepler telescope. Seager is also the author or editor of three books, Exoplanets, Exoplanet Atmospheres: Physical Processes, and Exoplanets and the Search For Habitable Worlds.

Seth Shostak is the senior astronomer at the SETI Institute. Before SETI, Shostak used radio telescopes in the United States and the Netherlands, searching for clues to the ultimate fate of the universe by analyzing galaxy motion. Shostak is also active in outreach activities to interest the public in science, particularly astrobiology. He has co-authored a college textbook on astrobiology, and has written three trade books on SETI. Shostak has also published more than 400 popular articles on science, including regular contributions to The Huffington Post and Discover Magazine blogs. He also hosts the SETI Institute's weekly science radio show, "Big Picture Science."

Jill Tarter is an astronomer and the outgoing director of the Center for SETI Research. She devotes her career to hunting for signs of sentient beings elsewhere, and has influenced almost every aspect of this field of study. She led Project Phoenix, a decade-long SETI project scrutinized about 750 nearby star systems, using telescopes in Australia, West Virginia and Puerto Rico. Although no clear extraterrestrial signal was found, Project Phoenix was the most comprehensive targeted search for artificially generated cosmic signals. Tarter currently heads the operation of the Allen Telescope Array, a new instrument that increases the speed and spectral search range of SETI's hunt for signals. Jodie Foster's character in the 1997 film Contact is largely based on Tarter and her astronomical work.

Gordon Walker is a Canadian astronomer and professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia. He was a member of the first group to report on the detection of extrasolar planets, and pioneered some of the techniques for extrasolar planetary searches. Walker, alongside fellow astronomers Bruce Campbell and Stephenson Yang made the first published discovery of an extrasolar planet in 1988. Because of the limits of instrumental capabilities at the time, astronomers remained skeptical of the trio's discovery, but in 2003, improved techniques allowed the confirmation of the planet's existence.


Wild Canada

Wild Canada

Visit our website to watch the series online, discover extra behind-the-scenes stories and find our Best of 2014 iOS App. Visit Wild Canada

NEWS SERIES: Follow our team online as we work on a new series, Wild Canadian Year , debuting in October 2017.

From CBC Kids

the nature of things jr
Also on CBC