Skip to main content

KeplerCon 2011


Last week was the first Kepler Science Conference (or KeplerCon as I call it), at NASA Ames near Silicon Valley in Northern California. I attended with my grad student Tim Morton, and my new postdoc Phil Muirhead. Phil and I had back-to-back talks about our work on studying the least massive stars in the Kepler Field.

The Kepler Mission is a 1-meter space telescope that is staring at a 100 square-degree field of view. It measures the brightnesses of 160,000+ stars once every 30 minutes looking for the stars to periodically become dimmer, indicating the presence of an eclipsing (transiting) planet. Here's what a large signal looks like:

The Kepler Mission is exciting because it looks at so many stars and has such high precision. Here's a tiny signal from a tiny planet discovered by Kepler:

This is Kepler-22b, a 2.5 Earth-radius planet orbiting in its star's "habitable zone," which is the goldilocks region around the star where it is cool enough for liquid water. Pretty exciting!

Kepler is finding thousands of small planets like this, and each signal needs to be confirmed using telescopes on the ground. At the conference, Phil and I described our program to focus on the planet signals around very small stars known as red dwarfs, or M dwarfs. 

Here's Phil's excellent talk:


Here's my talk right after Phil's:


And here are all of the talks from the conference:


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

An annual note to all the (NSF) haters

It's that time of year again: students have recently been notified about whether they received the prestigious NSF Graduate Student Research Fellowship. Known in the STEM community as "The NSF," the fellowship provides a student with three years of graduate school tuition and stipend, with the latter typically 5-10% above the standard institutional support for first- and second-year students. It's a sweet deal, and a real accellerant for young students to get their research career humming along smoothly because they don't need to restrict themselves to only advisors who have funding: the students fund themselves!
This is also the time of year that many a white dude executes what I call the "academic soccer flop." It looks kinda like this:


It typically sounds like this: "Congrats! Of course it's easier for you to win the NSF because you're, you know, the right demographic." Or worse: "She only won because she's Hispanic."…

On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on NBA.com, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I started by downloading a stock photo of J.J. from NBA.com, which I then loaded into OpenOffice Draw:


I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

Finding Blissful Clarity by Tuning Out

It's been a minute since I've posted here. My last post was back in April, so it has actually been something like 193,000 minutes, but I like how the kids say "it's been a minute," so I'll stick with that.
As I've said before, I use this space to work out the truths in my life. Writing is a valuable way of taking the non-linear jumble of thoughts in my head and linearizing them by putting them down on the page. In short, writing helps me figure things out. However, logical thinking is not the only way of knowing the world. Another way is to recognize, listen to, and trust one's emotions. Yes, emotions are important for figuring things out.
Back in April, when I last posted here, my emotions were largely characterized by fear, sadness, anger, frustration, confusion and despair. I say largely, because this is what I was feeling on large scales; the world outside of my immediate influence. On smaller scales, where my wife, children and friends reside, I…