Dr. Jean Chiar

December 20, 2006

SETI Institute Principal Investigator

Physicist Jean Chiar’s research follows the cycle of stellar life and death, tracing the history of dust grains in the cosmos after they’re created in the outflows of old, evolved stars.   By making observations in the infrared part of the spectrum, Chiar can examine the chemical fingerprints of the molecules that are central to this cycle.  She and her colleagues develop computer models of the stellar life cycle, and then test their models in the controlled setting of the laboratory and through observations with telescopes. In the process, they learn what materials were around at the formation of our own solar system. Her ultimate goal is to trace the life story of these molecules, from their creation around other stars to their movement into interstellar space, where they are eventually incorporated into nascent planetary systems. “If we understand how other planetary systems form,” Chiar says, “we can understand how our own system formed.” 


- SETI Institute Explorer, Special Edition 2005