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Physics & Astronomy Colloquium – Fall 2020 – Mamajek
October 21, 2020 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Speaker: Eric Mamajek (NASA/JPL)
Title: Update on NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program (ExEP) and Science
Abstract: I’ll provide an update on the NASA Exoplanet Exploration Program (ExEP), the Astrophysics Division’s program responsible for implementing NASA’s plans for discovering and characterizing exoplanets and searching for potentially habitable worlds. One of the key recommendations of the recent NAS Exoplanet Science Strategy (ESS) report, which is providing input to the Astro2020 Decadal Survey, is for NASA to “lead a large strategic direct imaging mission capable of measuring the reflected-light spectra of temperate terrestrial planets orbiting Sun-like stars.” I’ll summarize some recent NASA ExEP-supported activities which have made critical progress towards informing the design of mission(s) for implementing this recommendation, including 1) exoplanetary occurrence rates (Kepler/K2), 2) observational constraints on levels of exozodiacal dust around nearby stars (LBTI/HOSTS survey), and 3) advances in starlight suppression technology including coronagraphs and starshades. I’ll also summarize some recent research results related to the detections of the very youngest exoplanets via transits and direct imaging, and searches for transiting circumplanetary disks.
Speaker Biography: Dr. Eric Mamajek earned his B.S. in astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State, an M.Sc. in physics from the University of New South Wales/ADFA, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Arizona. He was previously a Clay Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Associate Astronomer for the National Optical Astronomy Observatory at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, and Professor of Physics & Astronomy at University of Rochester, where he worked with students and postdocs on observational astronomy research related to the formation and evolution of exoplanetary systems. Eric’s research includes discovering and characterizing new nearby young stellar groups, age-dating host stars of exoplanets and circumstellar disks and studying their evolution, and studying the evolution of stellar rotation and magnetic activity. Since starting at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2016, he has served as the Deputy Program Chief Scientist for the NASA Exoplanet Exploration Program, managed by JPL for the Astrophysics Division of the NASA Science Mission Directorate.