Astronomy Lecture: "The Ultimate Fate of the Solar System and the Music of the Spheres"
October 20, 2010
7 to 8:30 p.m.

long-term planetary orbits illustrated in various colors

As part of the 12th annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, Dr. Gregory Laughlin, of the University of California, Santa Cruz, will present The Ultimate Fate of the Solar System and the Music of the Spheres Wednesday, Oct. 20, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking.

The long-term fate of the planets in our Solar System has intrigued astronomers and mathematicians for more than 300 years. Although the planetary orbits are often held up as a model of clockwork regularity, the Solar System is in truth an extremely complex and chaotic system. Dr. Laughlin will explain how very recent advances in computing technology have finally given us a solution to the problem. He will also show how the delicate gravitational interplay between the planets can be interpreted as a true "music of the spheres", and will audition for us the profoundly unsettling compositions that can result in the event that the planetary orbits go haywire in the extremely distant future.

Greg Laughlin is a Professor of Astronomy at the University of California at Santa Cruz. From 1999-2001 he worked as a planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center. He is a leader in the field of detecting planets around other stars and is also an expert on the long-term fate of the Earth, the Solar System, the Galaxy, and the Universe. He is co-author of the popular book "The Five Ages of the Universe: Inside the Physics of Eternity".

One unit of astronomy course credit at Foothill is available to those who attend all six of the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures in 2010-2011 (you may watch one on the Web) and write a short paper. Lectures are always on Wednesday evenings, and there are two each quarter, from October through May. California residents pay $17 per unit plus basic fees for Foothill classes. To register for the course, ASTRO 36, go to

The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past lectures from the series are available online in MP3-format at

Visitors must purchase a campus parking permit for $2 from yellow dispensers in student lots. Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. For more information, access or call (650) 949-7888.

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Special Notice: Admission is free; parking is $2. Purchase parking permit from dispensers in any student lot.