Colloquium Thesis Proposal: Laura Mayorga
Aug 28 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium Thesis Proposal: Laura Mayorga @ BX102

Probing Exoplanet Atmospheric Properties from Phase Variations and Polarization

Laura Mayorga, NMSU

The study of exoplanets is evolving past simple transit and Doppler method discovery and characterization. One of the many goals of the upcoming mission WFIRST-AFTA is to directly image giant exoplanets with a coronagraph. We undertake a study to determine the types of exoplanets that missions such as WFIRST will encounter and what instruments these missions require to best characterize giant planet atmospheres. We will first complete a benchmark study of how Jupiter reflects and scatters light as a function of phase angle. We will use Cassini flyby data from late 2000 to measure Jupiter’s phase curve, spherical albedo, and degree of polarization. Using Jupiter as a comparison, we will then study a sample of exoplanet atmosphere models generated to explore the atmospheric parameter space of giant planets and estimate what WFIRST might observe. Our study will provide valuable refinements to Jupiter-like models of planet evolution and atmospheric composition. We will also help inform future missions of what instruments are needed to characterize similar planets and what science goals will further our knowledge of giant worlds in our universe.

Colloquium: Rodolfo Montez Jr.
Oct 2 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium: Rodolfo Montez Jr. @ BX102

Insights into Binary Stars, Stellar Winds, and Astrophysical Plasmas from X-ray Observations of Planetary Nebulae

Rodolfo Montez Jr., Vanderbilt University


Pizza Lunch: Kyle Uckert and Nancy Chanover
Oct 26 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Pizza Lunch: Kyle Uckert and Nancy Chanover

Integration of an IR spectrometer with a rock climbing robot

Colloquium: Brian Jackson
Dec 4 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium:  Brian Jackson @ BX102

On the Edge: Exoplanets with Orbital Periods Shorter Than a Peter Jackson Movie

Brian Jackson, Boise State Univeristy

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.

Pizza Lunch: Kristian Finlator
Oct 23 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Pizza Lunch: Kristian Finlator @ AY 119

Vastly Improved Simulations of the Hydrogen Reionization Epoch: Too Much for One Paper?

Colloquium: Sanchayeeta Borthakur (Host: Kristian Finlator)
Oct 19 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium:  Sanchayeeta Borthakur (Host: Kristian Finlator) @ BX102

Understanding How Galaxies Reionized the Universe

 Sanchayeeta Borthakur, Arizona State University

Identifying the population of galaxies that was responsible for the reionization of the universe is a long-standing quest in astronomy. While young stars can produce large amounts of ionizing photons, the mechanism behind the escape of Lyman continuum photons (wavelength < 912 A) from star-forming regions has eluded us. To identify such galaxies and to understand the process of the escape of Lyman continuum, we present an indirect technique known as the residual flux technique. Using this technique, we identified (and later confirmed) the first low-redshift galaxy that has an escape fraction of ionizing flux of 21%. This leaky galaxy provides us with valuable insights into the physics of starburst-driven feedback. In addition, since direct detection of ionizing flux is impossible at the epoch of reionization, the residual flux technique presents a highly valuable tool for future studies to be conducted with the upcoming large telescopes such as the JWST.

Colloquium: Elise Boera (Host: Kristian Finlator)
Dec 6 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium: Elise Boera (Host: Kristian Finlator) @ BX102

Revealing reionization with the thermal history of the intergalactic medium

Elisa Boera, SISSA Trieste

During hydrogen reionization the UV radiation from the first luminous sources injected vast amount of energy into the intergalactic medium, photo-heating the gas to tens of thousands of degree Kelvin. This increase in temperature has left measurable `imprints’ in the thermal history of the cosmic gas: a peak in the temperature evolution at the mean density and a smoothing out of the gas in the physical space by the increased gas pressure following reionization (i.e. Jeans smoothing effect). The structures of the HI Lyman-alpha forest at high redshift are sensitive to both these effects and therefore represent a powerful tool to understand when and how reionization happened. I will present the most recent constraints on the thermal history of the intergalactic medium obtained using the Lyman-alpha forest flux power spectrum at z>5. I will show how these results can be used to obtain information on the timing and the sources of the reionization process and I will discuss their consistency with different possible reionization scenarios.