2013 - 2014

The Kepler Mission: Finding Exotic Solar Systems on the Road to Earth-Like Planets

Prof. Jonathan Fortney - University of California, Santa Cruz
When Jan 21, 2014
from 08:00 PM to 09:00 PM
Where MUMC 1A1
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Jonathan Fortney

Prof. Jonathan Fortney
University of California, Santa Cruz

Download the official lecture poster (PDF)

Humans have long wondered what other planetary systems are like, and if potentially Earth-like planets exist around other stars. NASA's Kepler Mission is a space telescope that was designed to answer these questions. From four years of Kepler data we can now confidently say that the average planetary system looks nothing like our own. Nature often makes compact planetary systems where several planets orbit closer in that Mercury's distance, where our planetary system is entirely empty. Within the startling diversity in planetary systems, Kepler data can be combed to understand how common Earth-size planets really are. I will discuss a variety of recent estimates that all point to tens of billions of Earth-sized planets in our Milky Way, and discuss the fraction of these that may be temperate enough to potentially support life.

Speaker backgroundJonathan Fortney is an Associate Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is an expert in understanding the atmospheres, interiors, and compositions of planets inside and outside of the solar system. He has been a member of the Kepler Science Team since 2009. An author of over 125 scientific papers, Fortney was awarded the 2010 Urey Prize from the American Astronomical Society for his work on understanding the properties of exoplanets.

Watch the video recording of this lecture here.

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The Search for Stellar Origins from Antiquity to the 21st Century

Prof. Charles J. Lada - Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
When Mar 27, 2014
from 08:00 PM to 09:00 PM
Where MUMC 1A1
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Charles Lada

Prof. Charles J. Lada
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

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Most of what we know about the origins of stars and planets we have learned in the past quarter century, yet the question of stellar origins is among the oldest in astronomy. In this lecture I will review ideas and concepts about the nature of stars and stellar origins from the ancient Greeks to Newton and then to William Herschel who in the eighteenth century proposed a surprisingly modern picture of star formation. I will discuss the "dark ages" of the nineteenth century when the infusion of new technology and physics set back research in this field for nearly a century. Finally I will describe the advances in physics and astronomy in the early twentieth century that led to the critical discovery of the true nature of the sun and the stars and set the stage for the renaissance in star formation research that began in mid to late twentieth century and continues unabated today.

Watch the video recording of this lecture here.

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