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Patterns of Sunlight on Extra-Solar Planets

exoplanet and red starExoplanets discovered to date show a wide range of orbital eccentricities; the angles between their spin equators and orbital planes are still quite unknown, but these "obliquities'' may range widely as well. Both eccentricity and obliquity can have profound effects on a planet's seasons, as well as on its cycle of night and day.

Mapping the Surface of a Rocky Extrasolar Planet: Kepler-10b

extrasolar planetKepler-10b is a terrestrial planet orbiting its host star every 20 hours. At semi-major axis of 0.017 AU the planetary surface receives a massive amount of flux that heats to approximately 2000 K.

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.

Thermal History of Planetary Objects: From Asteroids to super-Earths, from plate-tectonics to life

super earthConvection in the interiors of planetesimals (asteroids), planets, and satellites is driving the thermal and chemical evolution of these bodies including the generation of possible magnetic fields.  The wide size range induces a wide range of time scales from hundreds of thousands of years for small planetesimals to a few tens of Gigayears for massive super-Earths.

Ocean Surfaces on Snowball Earth

snowball earth

Dr. Warren will discuss the Snowball Earth events in Earth history, when the ocean apparently froze all the way to the Equator. These events were qualitatively different from the recent ice ages of the Pleistocene, in which ice sheets advanced over large parts of the northern continents.  On Snowball Earth, by contrast, Warren will argue that most of the action was in the ocean. 

Exploring Complex, High-Dimensional Data For Hidden Structure

quantum physicsHow does one search for a needle in a multi-dimensional haystack not knowing what a needle is and not being sure there is one in the haystack?  Solving this sort of problem might seem to be impossible, yet this is exactly what Dynamic Quantum Clustering (DQC) manages to do.

Life before genetics: autogenesis, information, and the outer solar system

moon of giant gas planetThe investigation of the origins of life has been hindered by what we think we know about current living organisms. This includes three assumptions about necessary conditions: 1) that it emerged entirely on Earth, 2) that it is dependent on the availability of liquid water, and 3) that it is coextensive with the emergence of molecules able to replicate themselves.

Clicks, whistles and pulses: what can SETI learn from the parallel challenges of dolphin communication research?

dolphinsThe search for signals out of noise is a problem not only with radio signals from the sky but in the study of animal communication on Earth. Like SETI radio signal searches, dolphin sound analysis includes the detection, recognition, analysis, and interpretation of signals.

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