Do WIMPs rule? The LUX and LZ Experiments and the Search for Cosmic Dark Matter

Dark Matter remains a profound mystery at the intersection of particle physics, astrophysics, and cosmology. One of the leading candidates, the Weakly Interacting Massive Particle, or WIMP, may be detectable using terrestrial particle detectors. Recent technological advances are enabling very rapid increases in sensitivity in the search for these particles. I will talk about the LUX experiment, a liquid xenon time projection chamber, which currently holds the best upper limit over much of the WIMP mass range.

The Anthropocene Epoch in Cosmic Evolution

Informed by comparative planetology and a survey of the major episodes in Earth history, Dr. Grinspoon will offer a taxonomy of planetary catastrophes meant to illuminate the unusual nature of the “Anthropocene”, the current epoch of human-driven planetary-scale changes, and reframe our current environmental and technological predicaments as part of a larger narrative of planetary evolution. This saga has now reached the pivotal moment when humans have become a dominant force of planetary change, and geological and human history are becoming irreversibly conjoined.

Rosetta: Wild Bounce at comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Abstract:  Rosetta is the third cornerstone mission of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Horizon 2000 Programme.

The Habitable Zones of Pre-Main-Sequence Stars

The habitable zone (HZ) is the region around a star in which liquid water could exist on a planetary surface. Although most HZ studies have focused on the main-sequence period, here we argue that the pre-main-sequence HZ likely provides additional targets for observers. The spatial distribution of liquid water and its change during the pre-main-sequence phase of protoplanetary systems is important in understanding how planets become habitable.

Rise of the Machines: Mining the Kepler Data for Astrobiology

Kepler space telescopeAbstract: Since its launch in 2009, NASA's Kepler Mission has transformed our knowledge of exoplanetary system demographics. Kepler's primary mission goal-- to quantify the occurrence rate of habitable zone Earth-size planets around Sun-like stars-- has a clear connection to astrobiology.

A link between meteoritic organic compounds and the homochirality of life?

Abstract: Current theories suggest that portions of interstellar compounds should eventually be incorporated into the comets, "asteroids" and planets of new planetary systems. Astronomical observations point to processes such as the formation of comet and asteroid belts, familiar to our solar system, as likely occurring in many star systems. As with comets and asteroids, the formation of organic compounds around new-formed stars might be a common process.

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