Observational Astronomy

The Gemini Planet Imager initial performance and data analysis

Gemini Planet Imager schematicThe Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) is a dedicated facility for directly imaging and spectroscopically characterizing extrasolar planets. It combines a very high-order adaptive optics system, a diffraction-suppressing coronagraph, and an integral field spectrograph with low spectral resolution but high spatial resolution. GPI has been tuned for maximum sensitivity to faint planets near bright stars.

Towards Improved Occurrence Rates of Exoplanets: The Properties of Stars Observed by Kepler

Abstract: The detection of over 3000 new exoplanets by the NASA Kepler mission has opened up the possibility to infer the occurrence rate of planets in the habitable zones of stars in our galaxy. However, both the characteristics of the detected planets and their occurrence rates crucially depend on our understanding of properties of the stars that were observed.

Studying our Atmosphere at 500 kph: The AJAX Project at NASA Ames

ajax from nasaThe Alpha Jet Atmospheric Experiment (AJAX) project at NASA Ames Research Center measures in-situ carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and ozone (O3) concentrations in our atmosphere several times each month.  Our project goals are to study local photochemical smog production, provide data for long-term studies of trans-Pacific transport of pollution, and support the observ

Deciphering year-to-year wiggles on the Keeling Curve

mauna loa observatoryThe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 315 parts per million by volume (ppm) when Charles Keeling started his measurement at the Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii, in 1958. It surpassed 400 ppm on May 9, 2013 for the first time in the 55-year continuous record of measurements.

The Colossus Project: Designing an optical/IR instrument to detect life outside the solar system

colossusThis talk describes an effort  to detect life, and even conduct a planetary census, in our cosmic neighborhood. I'll describe some results from the Colossus group, an interdisciplinary science and engineering team, working to show how telescopes  much larger than the TMT or EELT could be built today by relaxing some of the astronomical requirements of current "world's largest telescope" projects.

The Once and Future Kepler

keplerDr. Jon Jenkins, head of the Data Analysis team on the Kepler Mission, will discuss the current status of the Kepler mission and the ailing spacecraft, and will also discuss the recently selected TESS Mission, which will follow on from Kepler in detecting planets by observing the dimming of starlight as planets pass in front of the parent star. 

Large Synoptic Survey Telescope: Entering the Era of Petascale Optical Astronomy

lsst site

Large Synoptic Survey Telescope: Entering the Era of Petascale Optical Astronomy

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST;http://lsst.org) is a planned, large-aperture, wide-field, ground-based telescope that will survey half the sky every few nights in six optical bands from 320 to 1050 nm. It will explore a wide range of astrophysical questions, ranging from discovering “killer” asteroids, to examining the nature of dark energy.

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