TALK: Interstellar Crossings: The Image of Exoplanets and the Imagination of Other Worlds

When seven rocky planets were discovered around the star TRAPPIST-1, claims of potentially habitable worlds animated the scientific discourse and press coverage. Beautiful animations of the surfaces of these planets and imaginative tales of planet hopping suggested that this discovery was not just about discovering more planets, but that it was also about discovering worlds. In this talk, Messeri will recount ethnographic findings from her work with exoplanet astronomers. She will explore how planets become worlds and what resources scientists draw on to execute this conceptual crossing and imaginatively leave the boundary of our world to extend human presence beyond the solar system.

Before joining the Anthropology department at Yale earlier this year, Lisa Messeri taught at the University of Virginia and the University of Pennsylvania. Her published work includes Placing Outer Space: An Earthly Ethnography of Other Worlds (2016), which traces how the place-making practices of planetary scientists transform the void of space into a cosmos filled with worlds that can be known and explored.

Sponsored by the IHC’s Crossings + Boundaries series.
Image Courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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