Astrophysics doctoral student to speak on search for exoplanets

Sam Mellon
Sam Mellon

Sam Mellon, a doctoral student at the University of Rochester studying physics and astronomy, will speak next week at Pitt-Bradford.


            Mellon's talk, “Finding New Worlds: The Search for Exoplanets,” will take place at 7 p.m. May 12 in Fisher Hall 107. It is sponsored by the Division of Physical and Computational Sciences.


            Mellon's talk will be a scientific history for a general audience about the nature of light, what can be learned from it and how astronomers go about looking for exoplanets.


            “The field of detecting and characterizing exoplanets has boomed in the past decade,” Mellon said. Exoplanets are those found outside our own solar system. “The number of exoplanets known has inflated from a couple to 2,000. We have only begun to scratch the surface of this field, and we are only beginning to detect large numbers of Earth-sized exoplanets.”


He will also talk about the use of telescopes for detecting exoplanets and the techniques used during discoveries he has been involved in.


            Mellon is a 2011 graduate of Bradford Area High School and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physics with a minor in music at Westminster College in New Wilmington. He earned an honorable mention in 2013 and 2014 from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program.


            He has worked at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, N.M., on observing rare types of stars. He is in the first year of a Ph.D. program at the University of Rochester.


            “My thesis project is still on the drawing board,” he said, “but will likely be in the area of circumplanetary ring systems and exomoons.”