Past Astronomy Colloquia

Mon, 2017-10-16 15:00 - 16:15
Hannah Jang-Condell (University of Wyoming)
Exoplanets have been discovered in orbits as close as 0.05 AU, and as distant as hundreds of AU. Hence, exoplanets are a hot topic, but they are also pretty cool. One way to better understand planetary systems is to study their origins. Gas-rich protoplanetary disks represent early stages of planet formation, when gas giants form. Gas-free debris disks represent later stages of planet formation, when terrestrial planets might form.
Mon, 2017-10-09 15:30 - 16:45
Mon, 2017-10-02 15:00 - 16:00
Yancy Shirley (Steward Observatory, University of Arizona)

Recent surveys of the dust continuum emission in the Milky Way Galaxy have revealed tens of thousands of cold, dense clumps with enough mass to form clusters of stars (some potentially massive stars) but no current evidence for star formation. These massive starless clump candidates represent the earliest phase of cluster formation. The typical starless clump candidate is ~1 pc in size, cold (Tk ~ 13 K), and with a mass of ~250 Msun.

Mon, 2017-09-25 15:00 - 16:00
Yashar Hezaveh (Stanford)

Strong gravitational lensing provides a unique opportunity to investigate many subjects, including the distribution of dark matter in lensing galaxies, the properties of distant galaxies by magnifying their images, and the expansion rate of the universe. Today, however, there are only a few hundred strong lenses known and the study of these systems has been often limited to small samples, due to the challenging nature of lens modeling analysis. This is about to change.

Mon, 2017-09-18 15:00 - 16:00
Dan Werthimer (Berkeley)

What is the possibility of other intelligent life in the universe? Can we detect radio, infrared, or visible light signals from alien civilizations? Current and future projects searching for such signals, including the new $100-million Breakthrough Prize Foundation Listen project, may provide an answer. Dan Werthimer will describe the plans for future searches and show how new technologies are revolutionizing the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI).

Mon, 2017-09-11 15:30 - 16:45
Jessica Werk (University of Washington)
The circumgalactic medium (CGM; non-ISM gas within a galaxy virial radius) regulates the gas flows that shape the assembly and evolution of galaxies. Owing to vastly improved capabilities in space-based UV spectroscopy with the installation of HST/COS, observations and simulations of the CGM have emerged as the new frontier of galaxy evolution studies. In the last decade, we have learned that the CGM of Milky Way mass galaxies likely contains enough material to harbor most of the metals lost in galaxy winds and to sustain star-formation for billions of years.
Thu, 2017-08-10 12:30 - 13:45
Professor Donald Kurtz (Jeremiah Horrocks Institute, University of Central Lancashire)
In 1926 in the opening paragraph of his now-classic book, The Internal Constitution of the Stars, Sir Arthur Eddington lamented, “What appliance can pierce through the outer layers of a star and test the conditions within?” While he considered theory to be the proper answer to that question, there is now an observational answer: asteroseismology. We are in a time of a significant advance in our understanding of stellar astrophysics with data from the Kepler Mission. From its rich 4-year data set nearly 5000 exoplanet candidates have been discovered - the majority of all known.
Mon, 2017-04-24 15:30 - 16:45
Renu Malhotra (Lunar and Planetary Lab, University of Arizona)
Several recent studies have appealed to the clustering of the angular orbital elements of very distant, extreme Kuiper Belt Objects (eKBOs) to argue for the existence of a large planet in the distant Solar System. I will review these arguments, and also describe other properties of eKBOs that may support the existence of such an unseen planet. We observe that several eKBOs have orbital periods close to integer ratios with each other. These are not dynamically significant unless the eKBOs are in mean motion resonances (MMRs) with a massive planet.
Mon, 2017-04-03 15:30 - 16:45
Matthew Payne (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)
I will discuss recent discoveries arising from our detailed search of the Pan-STARRS Outer Solar System survey data. These include the discovery of several hundred Kuiper-Belt and Scattered-Disk Objects, as well as Neptune Trojans and a possible population of Centaurs that appear to occupy a common plane. In addition I will discuss the heliocentric linking methodology that has facilitated these discoveries. I will go on to discuss issues related to the putative "Planet-9", a ~10 Earth-Mass planet hypothesized to lurk unseen in a distant orbit at the edge of the Solar System.
Mon, 2017-03-27 15:30 - 16:45
James Davenport (Western Washington University)
The MOST and Kepler space telescopes have pioneered the detection of extrasolar planets using high precision brightness monitoring of stars. With data spanning months to years for each star, these light curves also provide the best census of stellar phenomena including cool starspots and explosive flares. I will present results from studies of flares on active stars observed with Kepler and MOST, including the recently discovered exoplanet host stars TRAPPIST-1 and Proxima Centauri.
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