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This Week at Physics

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Event Number 2174

  Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Astronomy Colloquium
Hilldale Lecture
"The Small Star Opportunity"
Time: 3:30 pm
Place: 4421 Sterling Hall
Speaker: Prof David Charbonneau, Harvard CfA
Abstract: When exoplanets are observed to transit their parent stars, we are granted direct estimates of their masses, radii, and (by inference) composition, and we can undertake studies of their atmospheres. I will begin by summarizing the findings of the NASA EPOXI Mission, which re-used the Deep Impact Spacecraft to conduct a search for rocky worlds in a handful of known exoplanet systems. I will then report on the latest findings from the NASA Kepler Mission, which is conducting a transit search of 160,000<br>
Sun-like stars for rocky, habitable planets. I will then turn my attention to the particular opportunities afforded by nearby low-mass stars: TheMEarth Project uses an array of modest telescopes to search such stars for planets as small as 2 Earth radii in the stellar habitable zones. Should we succeed in identifying such worlds, their proximity to us would enable spectroscopic investigations of their atmospheres with facilities such as the James Webb Space Telescope.<br>
Host: Astronomy Department
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