Sara Seager (born 21 July 1971) is a Canadian-American astronomer and planetary scientist. She is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is known for her work on extrasolar planets and their atmospheres. She is the author of two textbooks on these topics, and has been recognized for her research by Popular Science, Discover Magazine, Nature, and TIME Magazine. Seager was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2013 citing her theoretical work on detecting chemical signatures on exoplanet atmospheres and developing low-cost space observatories to observe planetary transits.
NASA referred to her as “an astronomical Indiana Jones”. Sara Seager used the term “gas dwarf” for a high-mass super-Earth-type planet composed mainly of hydrogen and helium in an animation of one model of the exoplanet Gliese 581 c. The term “gas dwarf” has also been used to refer to planets smaller than gas giants, with thick hydrogen and helium atmospheres.
Seager was awarded the 2012 Sackler Prize for “analysis of the atmospheres and internal compositions of extra-solar planets”, the Helen B. Warner Prize from the American Astronomical Societyin 2007 for developing “fundamental techniques for understanding, analyzing, and finding the atmospheres of extrasolar planets. and the 2004 Harvard Bok Prize in Astronomy. She was appointed as a fellow to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012 and elected to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada as an honorary member in 2013. In September 2013 she became a MacArthur Fellow.
Seager developed a parallel version of the Drake equation to estimate the number of habitable planets in the galaxy. Instead of aliens with radio technology, Seager has revised the Drake equation to focus on simply the presence of any alien life detectable from Earth. The equation focuses on the search for planets with biosignature gases, gases produced by life that can accumulate in a planet atmosphere to levels that can be detected with remote space telescopes.
N = N*FQFHZFoFLFS
where: N = the number of planets with detectable signs of life
N* = the number of stars observed
FQ = the fraction of stars that are quiet
FHZ = the fraction of stars with rocky planets in the habitable zone
Fo = the fraction of those planets that can be observed
FL = the fraction that have life
FS = the fraction on which life produces a detectable signature gas
(From Wikipedia, March 2018)