LIFE Team members’ East Coast Journey: From NASA Goddard to AbSciCon

In the lead-up to the Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon) 2024 in Providence, RI, members of the Large Interferometer For Exoplanets (LIFE) team embarked on an exciting journey along the US East Coast. This trip provided a unique opportunity for the team to engage with esteemed colleagues and discuss the latest advancements in exoplanet research. The journey included stops at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York, and Columbia University, culminating in their participation at AbSciCon.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

The first stop on the group’s journey was NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, where they met with the Sellers’ Exoplanet Environments Collaboration (SEEC) team. SEEC is renowned for its multidisciplinary approach, leveraging expertise from Earth Science, Astrophysics, Heliophysics, and Planetary Science to tackle complex exoplanetary questions. The meeting was a fruitful exchange of ideas, with discussions focusing on the latest methodologies for detecting and characterizing exoplanets, as well as potential collaborative projects that could enhance the LIFE mission’s capabilities.

American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)

Next, the members of the LIFE team traveled to New York City to visit the American Museum of Natural History. Here, they had the privilege of meeting with renowned astrophysicists Rebecca Oppenheimer and Jackie Faherty. Oppenheimer, a curator and professor in the Department of Astrophysics at AMNH, shared insights from her extensive research on exoplanet related instrumentation. Faherty, known for her work on brown dwarfs and exoplanets, provided valuable perspectives on the observational and data analysis techniques that could be integrated into the LIFE mission.

A highlight of the visit was the meeting with Neil deGrasse Tyson, the celebrated astrophysicist and science communicator. Tyson’s enthusiasm for the LIFE mission was palpable, and his insights into public engagement, international research and exploration  policy and science communication were invaluable. The discussion covered a range of topics, from the technical challenges of the mission to strategies for inspiring public interest in the search for extraterrestrial life.

Columbia University

The final stop before heading to AbSciCon was Columbia University, where the group met with David Kipping, an assistant professor of astronomy and leader of the Cool Worlds Lab. Kipping’s research focuses on the detection and analysis of exoplanets and exomoons, making his expertise particularly relevant to the LIFE mission. The discussions at Columbia centered on the potential for exomoon observations and data analysis with Bayesian methods.


This East Coast journey was a resounding success, marked by productive meetings and inspiring discussions with some of the leading minds in exoplanet research. The insights gained from these interactions will undoubtedly contribute to the continued progress and refinement of the LIFE mission. As the group arrived at AbSciCon, they were well-prepared to present their latest findings and engage with the broader astrobiology community, building on the collaborative spirit fostered during their journey.