Brian’s Presentations

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.

Geology Talk

Physics/Astronomy Talk

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Beautiful Sky Pilot Mountain, south of Quest University.

The last two days of Exoclimes 2016 were as engaging as the first two — lots of great talks, discussion, and coffee break snacks.

The day 3 talks that really grabbed me were the first talks, focused on atmospheric mass loss from exoplanets since I’m currently working on that problem myself.

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).



OsherPagesTopPic2015I 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.

IMG_3637Had a wonderful visit to London, Ontario last week, home of the University of Western Ontario. Weather wasn’t quite as nice as here in Boise, but the city was just as beautiful.

My friend and colleague Catherine Neish arranged for me to give three talks while there — one on our crowd-funding effort, one on my exoplanet research, and one on our dust devil work.

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.

The International Space Station passing over Mesilla, NM on 2015 Dec 4.

The International Space Station passing over Mesilla, NM on 2015 Dec 4.

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.

CO_CGKlUkAAPKhCHad a great time last night at Flying M Coffee in Nampa. I gave a short talk about my research and recent developments in exoplanet astronomy.

Then I opened the floor up for questions — the best part of the night. Lots of really great questions about alien life, what exoplanets are like, when will we find life.

One question that stood out for me was asked by a young woman about how we study the composition of exoplanet atmospheres. I talked about the promise of the James Webb Space Telescope to measure transits in different colors. And there was a moment of genuine awe and surprise I could see on her face. It was really great.

As of this writing, our campaign has broken $1600 — very exciting. Thanks to Cindy Hall and April and Seth Masarik for their support.

As the only planetary scientist at Boise State, I was asked to present on the New Horizons mission to the Math REU program here, so I put together the presentation below.

After a cram session to prepare for the talk, I opted to have the mission PI Alan Stern present the mission himself and incorporated a really great NEAF talk he gave last year.

Here are the New Horizons links I give at the end of the talk:

Thanks to Drs. Scheepers and Babinkostova for the invitation to speak.

I gave a presentation at University of Maryland’s Astronomy Department today, Jun 26 on my dust devil work. Here it is. Abstract below.

Summoning Devils in the Desert
Brian Jackson (bjackson@boisestate.edu)
Dept. of Physics, Boise State University, Boise ID

Dust devils are small-scale (few to many tens of meters) low-pressure vortices rendered visible by dust lofted in moderate to high (> 10 m/s) winds. They persist for minutes to hours and can travel kilometers, usually carried by the ambient wind. On Earth, they occur primarily in arid locations and can reduce air quality and endanger small aircraft. On Mars, they occur ubiquitously and likely dominate the supply of atmospheric dust, influence climate, and even lengthen the operating lifetimes of solar-powered landers. Studied for decades, the underlying formation, dynamics, and statistics of dust devils remain poorly understood, but the same technology revolution that brought us stealth drones and iPhones is helping to change that. In this presentation, I’ll discuss on-going field surveys involving miniature, autonomous instrumentation deployed at sites known for dust devil activity. Using a combination of pressure loggers and photovoltaic cells, these surveys are helping to reveal the underlying natures and structure of dust devils in a totally novel way. We’ve found, for example, that not all devils are dusty, but the dustiest devils are also probably the biggest. The most vigorous dust devils occur most frequently during the middle of the day in the summer, when convection driven by insolation is the most active, but low-pressure vortices apparently occur year-round, throughout the day and night. As in astronomical surveys, statistical inference using these results requires assessing important biases, including selection and detection biases, largely unconsidered in previous surveys. Accurately assessing the role of dust devils requires a complete knowledge of their population statistics since the influence of the largest and most rare devils may drastically outweigh that of smaller, more common devils.