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Exoplanets and Planetary Science
Where do we come from? How did our solar system come to be the way it is? Are we alone? By studying the makeup and evolution of Earth, our solar system, and planets orbiting distant stars, Caltech’s astronomers, geologists, planetary scientists, and environmental scientists and engineers are collaborating to tackle these questions. Your support can help Caltech leverage its historic partnership with JPL and unparalleled access to observatories to reveal some of the universe’s greatest mysteries.
Mars is Earth’s next-door neighbor, yet the Red Planet is utterly alien—frozen, arid, and roiled by massive dust storms. However, this was not always so. Data sent back from Mars, by JPL’s robotic explorers, paint the picture of two planets that once may have been much more similar. Woody Fischer, Caltech professor of geobiology, is helping to decode the history hidden in Mars’ rocky terrain.
HD 187123 b is Cam Buzard’s favorite planet. About 160 light years away in the constellation Cygnus, it circles a star about as massive as our sun—only so close that a year flies by in three days. It weighs more than 150 Earths and sizzles at about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
“You ought to leave the world better than you found it,” engineer Allen Davis was known to say. And he did: Davis, who passed away at age 91 in 2015, left more than $60 million from his estate to Caltech.
Break Through, publicly launched just over a year ago, is already the most successful campaign in Caltech’s history. In the first year of the public phase alone, gifts exceeded $400 million. And total contributions—over $1.4 billion—have surpassed the goal of Caltech’s last campaign.
On May 12, 2017, President Thomas F. Rosenbaum hosted a luncheon and a ceremony renaming Caltech’s Keck Center to celebrate the legacy of W. M. “Bill” Keck Jr. and Caltech’s longstanding partnership with the W. M. Keck Foundation and Superior Oil Company, both founded by Keck Jr.’s father. Keck Jr. served on the Caltech Board of Trustees from 1961 until his death in 1982 and was a key member of the Investment Committee during most of his tenure on the board.
Room 101 in the North Seeley W. Mudd Laboratory of the Geological Sciences on campus is quiet, small, and nondescript. The only giveaway that it in fact serves as Caltech’s Mars Science Laboratory control room? The poster of a heroic Mars Curiosity rover hanging next to an oversized TV screen with a webcam.