Observational Astronomy

Finding Planets Around Nearby Stars: The Lick-Carnegie Extrasolar Planet Search Program

 There are currently over 350 known extrasolar planets, the vast majority discovered through detection of periodic barycentric reflex motion of the planet's host star via high-precision Doppler radial velocity measurements. The Lick-Carnegie Extrasolar Planet Search Program is one such precision Doppler-based planet survey. It is currently monitoring over 1330 nearby F,G,K, and M stars for planets at 2-3 m/sec precision, and has contributed over 70% of the presently-known exoplanets.

Fermi-LAT Observing the Universe with high-energy gamma-ray eyes

The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, formerly called GLAST, is a satellite mission designed to measure gamma-rays in the energy range 20 MeV to >300 GeV, with supporting measurements for gamma-ray bursts from 8 keV to 30 MeV. In addition to breakthrough capabilities in energy coverage and localization, the very large field of view enables observations of 20% of the sky at any instant, and the entire sky on a timescale of a few hours.

Solar Flares and Coronal Mass Ejections Observed with STEREO

 The STEREO mission, launched in 2006, consists of two identical spacecraft with EUV and white-light imagers that circle around the Sun in opposite direction and provide us for the first time a true stereoscopic view of solar flares and coronal mass ejections. We show some scientific highlights of this mission, including 3D reconstructions of the coronal plasma in active regions, eruptive flares, and mass ejections that propagate through the heliosphere.

HST Imaging of Fomalhaut: Direct detection of an exosolar planet and Kuiper Belt around a nearby star

 Advances in high-contrast imaging have produced a new sample of spatially resolved debris disks with morphologies attributed to the dynamical effects of planets.  I will briefly review several cases, including our recent non-detection of Beta Pictoris b using Keck adaptive optics at L-prime.  Then I will focus on the case for a planetary system around the nearby A star Fomalhaut.  Optical coronagraphic observations using the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard HST shows a vast dusty debris belt offset from the star and cleanly sculpted at its inside border.  Follow-up HST imag

Kepler's First Peek

The Kepler Mission is designed to find Earth-sized exoplanets by staring at the same star field for the entire mission and continuously and simultaneously monitoring the brightnesses of more than 100,000 stars for the life of the mission—3.5 or more years. In this way, it will determine the fraction of stars that have habitable planets - a key part of the Drake Equation. Kepler was launched on March 6th on a Delta II rocket. Dr. Batalha will talk about the first stunning results from Kepler showing the phases of the atmosphere of a known gas giant planet with incredible accuracy. 

Roundup at the Kepler Corral: the Race to Detect the First Earth-sized Planet in the Habitable Zone of a Sunlike Star

The Kepler Mission http://www.kepler.arc.nasa.gov is designed to detect transits of Earth-size planets orbiting in the "habitable zone" (HZ) around main-sequence stars of apparent visual magnitude 9 through 14, of F through M spectral type, by means of differential photometry of ~100,000 stars in the constellation Cygnus.

MIPSGAL: MIPS/Spitzer Survey of the Galactic Plane

 MIPSGAL is a survey of the Galactic plane at 24 and 70 microns using Multiband Imaging Photometer for Spitzer (MIPS) Space Telescope. This is one of the most sensitive survey in the mid-infrared of our Galactic plane. In this talk, Dr. Shenoy shall describe the science requirements, strategies, and data reduction of the survey program. He will outline some of the science topics that can be explored by the community using his team's data.

Science in my life, and the unpredictability of discovery

Professor Townes is the 1964 Nobel prize winner for fundamental work in the field of quantum electronics, which has led to the construction of oscillators and amplifiers based on the maser-laser principle. He is a former member of the SETI Institute board. His presentation will focus on the fact that many of the most important discoveries have been unpredicted surprises, hence we need to search intensely and hopefully. He will illustrate this with his own personal history, and other interesting examples that he knows well. 

Exploring the Extreme Universe with GLAST

NASA's Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) mission was launched into orbit on June 11, 2008. GLAST's mission is to explore the most energetic and exotic objects in the cosmos: blazing galaxies, intense stellar explosions and super-massive black holes. All the instruments on board are working well, and details of the hardware for Large Area Telescope and the GLAST Burst Monitor are described, along with opportunities for ground-based astronomers to get involved with GLAST. Professor Cominsky will present the first exciting results from the mission.

Liverpool Telescope: Development and science results from a fully autonomous common-user telescope

The Liverpool Telescope is a fully autonomous robotic telescope at the world-class observatory site on La Palma in the Canary Islands, owned and operated by Liverpool John Moores University (UK). Robert will summarize the original motivation for building such a facility and the design features of telescope, instrumentation and control software which enable its unusual operating mode.


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