Colloquium: Eric Nielsen (Host: Moire Prescott)
Sep 13 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium: Eric Nielsen (Host: Moire Prescott) @ BX102

Charting the Outer Reaches of Exoplanetary Systems: Wide-Separation Giant Planet Demographics with Direct Imaging

Eric Nielsen, Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, Stanford University

Over the past decade, the combination of advances in adaptive optics, coronagraphy, and data processing has enabled the direct detection and characterization of giant exoplanets orbiting young, nearby stars. In addition to the wealth of information about exoplanetary atmospheres we obtain from spectroscopy of directly imaged planets, the demographics of these wide-separation planets allow us to directly test theories of planet formation, probing the outer planetary systems compared to transit and radial velocity techniques. In this talk I will present results from the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey (GPIES), which surveyed 521 nearby stars for giant planet and brown dwarf companions orbiting beyond 5 AU, and is one of the largest, deepest direct imaging searches for exoplanets every conducted. The overall occurrence rate of substellar companions, and trends with companion mass, semi-major axis, and stellar mass are consistent with giant planets forming via core accretion, and point to different formation mechanisms for giant planets and brown dwarfs between 10 and 100 AU.


Colloquium: Phil Judge (Host James McAteer)
Nov 15 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium: Phil Judge (Host James McAteer) @ BX102

Using every photon to learn about the physics of solar plasmas

Phil Judge, High Altitude Observatory, Boulder CO.

The Sun has traditionally been the Rosetta Stone that can overcome the gap in regimes between laboratory and astronomical plasmas.   Theories applicable in the laboratory may not readily apply to solar plasmas, and vice-versa. Yet we still face challenges in understanding how the observable plasmas are produced, and why the magnetic field threading and energizing them must globally reverse every 11 years. I will give a general overview of currently pressing problems in solar physics, followed by two specific examples: one concerning the physics of flares through infrared spectroscopy and polarimetry, the other concerning how we might wring every last ounce of information from the emitted photons. Along the way I will introduce the NMSU-operated Dunn Solar Telescope, the new DKIST, Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter, and suggest how we might take advantage of these new facilities to make lasting progress.

Colloquium: Rixin Li (Host: Wladimir Lyra)
Nov 22 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium: Rixin Li (Host: Wladimir Lyra) @ BX102

Simulating Planetesimal Formation in the Kuiper Belt and Beyond

Rixin Li, University of Arizona

A critical step in planet formation is to build super-km-sized planetesimals in protoplanetary disks. The origin and demographics of planetesimals are crucial to understanding the Solar System, circumstellar disks, and exoplanets. I will overview the current status of planetesimal formation theory. Specifically, I will present our recent simulations of planetesimal formation by the streaming instability, a mechanism to aerodynamically concentrate pebbles in protoplanetary disks. I will then discuss the connections between our numerical models and recent astronomical observations and Solar System explorations. I will explain why all planetesimals likely formed as binaries.

Remote Colloquium Thesis Defense: Drew Chojnowski
May 29 @ 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Remote Colloquium Thesis Defense: Drew Chojnowski @ Online

H-Band Spectroscopy of Exotic, Massive Stars

Drew Chojnowski, NMSU

We report on spectroscopy of exotic B-type emission line (Be) stars and chemically peculiar (CP) stars in the near-infrared (NIR) H-band, using data provided by the Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment, one of the sub-surveys of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). Between 2011-2020, SDSS/APOGEE has observed more than a million stars in the Milky Way Galaxy (MW), with roughly 10% of the targets being hot, blue stars that serve as telluric absorption standard stars (TSS). The TSS are selected mostly on the basis of having blue raw J-K color indices with no preference for any particular spectral type that might be known from optical spectroscopy. This targeting strategy has led to the TSS being a mixed bag, with those observed in the MW Halo typically being F-type stars that are only slightly more massive than the Sun, and with those observed in the MW Disk and Bulge being OBA-type stars of a few up to 20 times the mass of the Sun. While the vast majority of the TSS are superficially normal main sequence stars, the inclusion of large numbers of Be and CP stars has serendipitously resulted in the largest ever homogeneous spectroscopic surveys of these stellar classes, both of which present observational anomalies that remain very poorly understand despite more than a hundred years of research. Prior to SDSS/APOGEE, the H-band spectra of Be and CP stars had only been discussed in a handful of studies, all of which used small numbers of spectra of considerably lower resolution than the R=22,500 of the APOGEE instruments. The material presented in this thesis therefore represents the first ever detailed studies of Be and CP stars in the H-band, while also greatly expanding the known samples through discovery of many hundreds of new examples.