aas 229

All posts tagged aas 229

Figure from Gao’s talk, showing the spectrum of a planet before (blue and black lines) hazes and after (red line). The molecular features are almost completely wiped out by the hazes.

On day two of the AAS 229th meeting, I attended the morning session on exoplanet characterization and theory, which focused on atmospheric characterization. Several great talks, but one that made an impression on me was Peter Gao‘s presentation on sulfur hazes in hot Jupiter atmospheres.

Gao discussed work from Kevin Zahnle at NASA Ames showing that UV photolysis can transform even small amounts of gaseous sulfur in a hot Jupiter’s atmosphere into significant amounts of polymer haze. Something that has become a running motif in exoplanet atmosphere studies, these hazes discombobulate the spectrum of light emerging from a planet’s atmosphere, completely masking the signatures of other atmospheric components. This is bad news if, say, you wanted to determine the composition of a planet using light reflected from its atmosphere.

In the afternoon, I was fortunate to attend Sean Carroll‘s plenary talk “What We (Don’t) Know About the Beginning of the Universe”. It was a fascinating tour of all the different ideas about the origin of the universe, including The Big Bounce, baby universes hidden inside black holes, and the idea that the universe may have no beginning and no end. The best part of the talk, for me, was the end, when Carroll showed us a stern letter from a 10 year old skeptic sent to him in a response to an NYT article in which Carroll was quoted:

I Don’t know if you Exist But I Do! I bo not Agree with your Articl and I Do not Beleave that “MOMBO-JOMBO” if you do … Well! it’s Disturbing thought But I know How to Deal with it! I will Not let the Wolb Disiper under My Nose But if you Do I cant say I’m sorry!


a ten year old who knows a little more than some Pepeol!

George Wing

ps. some peopl Have a little to Much time.

Just brilliant!

Unfortunately, I had to depart for home shortly thereafter, so I’m missing the rest of the meeting. So here endeth my blog series on the meeting. Our fall semester at Boise State starts next week, though, and I plan to have weekly (maybe even semi-weekly) updates on the blog, so stay tuned.

A very active and engaging morning session on detecting exoplanets via the transit method on AAS 229 Day 1. Lots of good talks (although all of the talks were by male astronomers) and probing but polite questions (again, mostly by male astronomers – interesting study on these trends here). A few talks stuck out in my mind.

Aaron Rizzuto from UT Austin looked for transiting planets in stellar clusters spanning a range of ages using data from the K2 Mission and found there seem to be fewer hot Jupiters in clusters 10 million years old than there are in older (hundreds of millions of years old) clusters. He suggested that this may mean it takes 100s of millions of years for the migration that makes hot Jupiters to take place. That would probably rule out one standard model for making hot Jupiters, namely gas disk migration, since that probably takes place within a few 10s of millions of years.

Dave Kipping of Columbia University discussed his search for transits of Proxima b, the recently discovered, Earth-sized planet just four light years from Earth. Unfortunately, the host star, Proxima, is a highly variable star due to almost constant flaring. As a result, it would be very difficult to see the planet’s transit – as Kipping said, it requires wading through “a sea of variability”. However, Kipping and his group struggled valiantly to recover the transit using data from the Canadian MOST satellite, and it looks like the planet just does not transit. So we probably won’t know the planet’s radius (at least not for a long time). Bummer.

The last talk of the session was from George Ricker, the PI of the TESS mission, the follow-up mission to Kepler, about TESS’s status and prospects. Apparently, the mission will observe more than 2 million stars! Orbiting many of those stars will be nearby habitable planets, and Ricker showed an amazing simulation of where those stars might be found (courtesy of Zach Berta-Thompson of UC Boulder), a still from which is shown below.