Professor of Astronomy [on leave, 2013-14]
Astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Research Interests: Detecting and characterizing planets orbiting other stars—worlds known as "exoplanets." He is fascinated by planets in edge-on orbits, such that the planet periodically passes in front of its star. These systems offer unparalleled opportunities to determine the properties of the planet and its atmosphere.
Phillips Professor of Astronomy
Director, Origins of Life Initiative
Senior Advisor in the Sciences for Advanced Study
Research Interests: Professor Sasselov studies, among other things, extrasolar planets, and he's a co-investigator on NASA's Kepler mission, which is monitoring 100,000 stars in a three-year hunt for exoplanets -- including Jupiter-sized giants. Sasselov watches for exoplanets by looking for transits, the act of a planet passing across the face of its star, dimming its light and changing its chemical signature. This simple, elegant way of searching has led to a bounty of newly discovered planets.