This is the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada - Vancouver monthly meeting for January 2013 and is shared with the general public at no charge.
Please join us for an interesting and informative lecture! After the presentation we serve up astro-coffee, cookies, juice, along with stimulating conversation.
Please take special note of the location for this lecture:
The RASC Vancouver public lecture for Thursday January 10 will be held at the UBC Hennings Physics Building, Room 201. The lecture starts at 7:30PM.
For directions, please consult the UBC Wayfinding site:
The North Parkade and the UBC bus loop are about a five-minute walk from the Hennings Building.
Professor Jaymie Matthews
Department of Physics & Astronomy
University of British Columbia
The extended Kepler mission to find exoplanets: To know the planets, you must know the stars
What are the the structures and atmospheric compositions of exoplanets (planets beyond the Solar System)? Do they have strong magnetic fields and if so, how do those fields interact with their parent stars? What are the properties of those stars and their flare and spot activities? These questions are key to answering the question: "Can an exoplanet support life as we know it?" Accurate stellar properties are required for accurate values of exoplanet sizes and masses, and to understand the conditions on (and inside) those worlds.
Three space telescopes (Canada's MOST, France's CoRoT and America's Kepler) which monitor the light variations of stars and planetary systems with unprecedented precision and time coverage, are starting to provide answers to these questions.
How? For the planets, through monitoring of (a) exoplanet transits and eclipses, and (b) variations in the parent stars induced by those exoplanets. For the stars, through (a) asteroseismology (inferring internal structure through stellar surface vibrations) and (b) charting variations due to rotation, activity, mass loss and accretion. Soon, there will be a fourth space mission, BRITE Constellation (a Canadian-Austrian-Polish collaboration) to extend this effort into uncharted regions of astrophysical parameter space.
The NASA Kepler satellite mission has recently been extended beyond its planned 3½-year life to 2016. Kepler's revised mission is now mainly to specify the statistics of the exoplanets it discovers through detections of transits among the more than 150,000 stars it is monitoring. What are the planets' orbital parameters and diameters? To answer this question, it is vital to understand the true nature of the parent stars of these planets. If the stellar sizes are wrong, so are the planetary sizes. We can be fooled into thinking we’ve found an exoEarth in the Habitable Zone of its parent star, when in fact the planet is larger than Earth, or its orbit is too close to the star for liquid water oceans. We can also miss habitable Earth-sized exoplanet candidates.
I've been charged by the Kepler mission to co-lead a team to produce an improved catalogue of parameters (e.g., mass, radius, surface gravity, effective temperature, luminosity class) of the Kepler sample of stars. This catalogue is a ‘moving target’, which will be updated to keep pace with more (and better) data.
In this talk, I'll describe the Kepler mission, its "census"of planets (which will likely be more than 1000 confirmed worlds by early 2013), and some of the key results. I'll chart the future course of Kepler and how we hope to better understand the parent stars so we can better understand their families of planetary children.