I had a great time talking about the August 21st solar eclipse at the Flying M in Nampa last night. A packed house asked lots of interesting questions about this unique celestial event, and I’ve posted my presentation below.
Several folks in the crowd kindly donated to our Pony Up Campaign to support additional public outreach, bringing us nearly halfway to our goal. One more week to go!
Thanks to our donors for their support, particularly Joann Mychals, Mark Funaiole, and M Lewis, as well as several anonymous donors.
Don’t forget about our public astronomy event on Friday, Mar 3 at 7:30p in the Physics Building, when we’ll have Dr. Kaloyan Penev of Princeton join us to talk about his exoplanet research. If the weather’s clear, we’ll also do some stargazing.
Boise State’s research computing group is hosting a conference today and tomorrow on scientific computing. Along with several others, I was invited to give a 7-min, lightning talk about our research group‘s use of computing.
One of the research computing things we do is time-series analysis to look for new planets in data from the Kepler/K2 Mission. So I talked about the new planets our group has helped find – my talk is below.
Another exciting day for STEM at Boise State – today is the Engineering & Science Festival. I’ve heard thousands of people have signed up to attend, so we’re expecting huge crowds.
I’ll speak about the solar eclipse coming up in August this year and about our Pony Up Campaign to fund eclipse outreach.
Today is Aerospace Day at Boise State, a celebration of all things aerospace, aeronautics, and aviation.
I was invited to give a talk about the upcoming solar eclipse, and during my talk, I’m going to kick off our Crowd-Funding campaign for public outreach focused on the eclipse. I’ve posted my talk below.
And don’t forget our public astronomy event tonight!
A friend and colleague, Prof. Hannah Jang-Condell, invited me to visit her home department, the Physics and Astronomy Dept. at University of Wyoming. Having never been to Laramie, I was happy to accept.
I gave two presentations while at Wyoming, one to the geology dept. about our work on martian dust devils and another our SuPerPiG’s work looking for ultra-short-period planets. I’ve included my presentations below.
The last two days of Exoclimes 2016 were as engaging as the first two — lots of great talks, discussion, and coffee break snacks.
Ruth Murray-Clay gave a nice review talk about the variety of different mechanisms and regimes for atmospheric escape, while Eric Lopez suggested that, because escape should preferentially remove lighter elements from atmospheres, short-period exoplanets might retain water-rich envelopes, which could help us constrain their atmospheric compositions. Patricio Cubillos picked up on an idea previously explored by Owen and Wu and suggested that we could use mass-loss considerations to constrain the overall properties (density, etc.) of some short-period planets.
Other talks that stood out for me on day 3 included Eric Gaidos‘s talk about looking for geoengineering efforts by alien civilizations and Mateo Brogi‘s talk about measuring the spin rates of distant exoplanets, including GQ Lup b, a brown dwarf/high-mass exoplanet with a spin period of 3 days.
Day 4 of the conference whizzed by with a variety of talks regarding clouds and hazes in exoplanet atmospheres. Sarah Hörst taught us we should use the term ‘aerosol‘ instead of ‘clouds and/or hazes’ (since we’re not sure which of the two we’re seeing in exoplanet atmospheres).
Joanna Barstow and I rounded out the conference. She talked about her work analyzing exoplanet spectra and constraining aerosol (not clouds and/or haze) properties. Drawing upon the liturgical texts from the dawn of exoplanet science, I talked about my group’s work looking at Roche-lobe overflow of hot Jupiters (I’ve posted my talk below).
I gave a talk at Boise State’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute on exoplanets generally and my group’s research specifically.
The crowd was really amazing. Despite my being delayed by a flat bike tire, there was an enormous group of enthusiastic astrophiles waiting for me when I arrived.
We toured the night sky briefly using the stellarium program, a free (but please donate) and open-source night sky simulator available here — http://stellarium.org/.
I made quite a long talk to fill the two-hour scheduled slot, but there were so many interesting questions, I barely made it halfway through. I’ve posted my abstract and presentation below in case there’s any interest.
The Exoplanet Revolution
The discoveries of hundreds of planets outside our solar system, called exoplanets, have led to a renaissance in astrophysics and revolutionized every sub-discipline within planetary astronomy. The vast array of new planets strains imagination, and even after two decades of discovery, exoplanets pose a host of astrophysical riddles. In this presentation, I’ll describe how these distant worlds have revised our picture of planet formation and evolution. I’ll also discuss outstanding questions in planetary astrophysics and prospects for observational work, including the TESS mission, selected by NASA for a 2017 launch to find more, nearby planets.
I’ve posted two of the talks and abbreviated abstracts below. The dust devil talk, “Summoning Devils in the Desert”, is a reprise of a previous talk, so I didn’t include it below.
Crowdfunding To Support University Research and Public Outreach
In this presentation, I discussed my own crowdfunding project to support the rehabilitation of Boise State’s on-campus observatory. As the first project launched on PonyUp, it was an enormous success — we met our original donation goal of $8k just two weeks into the four-week campaign and so upped the goal to $10k, which we achieved two weeks later. In addition to the very gratifying monetary support of the broader Boise community, we received personal stories from many of our donors about their connections to Boise State and the observatory. I’ll talk about our approach to social and traditional media platforms and discuss how we leveraged an unlikely cosmic syzygy to boost the campaign.
On the Edge: Exoplanets with Orbital Periods Shorter Than a Peter Jackson Movie
In this presentation, I discussed the work of our Short-Period Planets Group (SuPerPiG), focused on finding and understanding this surprising new class of exoplanets. We are sifting data from the reincarnated Kepler Mission, K2, to search for additional short-period planets and have found several new candidates. We are also modeling the tidal decay and disruption of close-in gaseous planets to determine how we could identify their remnants, and preliminary results suggest the cores have a distinctive mass-period relationship that may be apparent in the observed population. Whatever their origins, short-period planets are particularly amenable to discovery and detailed follow-up by ongoing and future surveys, including the TESS mission.
Last week, I had a lovely visit to the Astronomy Dept at New Mexico State University in beautiful Las Cruces. I was invited to give one of the dept’s weekly colloquia about our research group’s work on very short-period exoplanets. While there, I talked dust devil science with my host Prof. Jim Murphy, his student Kathryn Steakley, and Lynn Neakrase.
I also enjoyed some excellent Mexican food at the Double Eagle Restaurant, which has been haunted by the ghosts of two young lovers since just after the Mexican-American War.
Just before dinner, the ISS also passed directly over our heads, and I got a very poor photo of it (left).
So, all in all, a great visit.
I’ve posted my abstract and presentation below.
On the Edge: Exoplanets with Orbital Periods Shorter Than a Peter Jackson Movie
From wispy gas giants to tiny rocky bodies, exoplanets with orbital periods of several days and less challenge theories of planet formation and evolution. Recent searches have found small rocky planets with orbits reaching almost down to their host stars’ surfaces, including an iron-rich Mars-sized body with an orbital period of only four hours. So close to their host stars that some of them are actively disintegrating, these objects’ origins remain unclear, and even formation models that allow significant migration have trouble accounting for their very short periods. Some are members of multi-planet system and may have been driven inward via secular excitation and tidal damping by their sibling planets. Others may be the fossil cores of former gas giants whose atmospheres were stripped by tides.
In this presentation, I’ll discuss the work of our Short-Period Planets Group (SuPerPiG), focused on finding and understanding this surprising new class of exoplanets. We are sifting data from the reincarnated Kepler Mission, K2, to search for additional short-period planets and have found several new candidates. We are also modeling the tidal decay and disruption of close-in gaseous planets to determine how we could identify their remnants, and preliminary results suggest the cores have a distinctive mass-period relationship that may be apparent in the observed population. Whatever their origins, short-period planets are particularly amenable to discovery and detailed follow-up by ongoing and future surveys, including the TESS mission.