“I can’t imagine a more profound impact on humanity than the discovery that there are other Earthlike worlds or that we are not alone,” said Rocky Kolb, the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics and department chairman.
Bean joins the faculty as an assistant professor in astronomy & astrophysics this autumn quarter. Fabrycky, who was a member of the team that discovered the Tatooine-like planet, will join the department next fall. Bean and Fabrycky were hired following a joint search conducted by the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics and the Department of Geophysical Sciences.
The new faculty additions come as the University as a whole is engaged in a significant expansion of its faculty. The departments of geophysical sciences and astronomy & astrophysics had identified the study of exoplanetary systems as one priority for their faculty, noting that discoveries in this arena “could have intellectual, cultural, and societal impacts comparable to those of Copernicus, Galileo and Darwin.”
A host of geophysical sciences faculty members already pursue interests related to exoplanets, said Michael Foote, professor and chairman of geophysical sciences. “What I personally find interesting is to see just what is the spectrum of variation in the kinds of planetary systems there could be out there,” said Foote, a paleontologist. “Models of solar system formation largely have been based on the details of our own system. Now that others are being discovered, many with unexpected properties, we need to revise our models.”
Exoplanets have emerged as a fairly recent interest of Dorian Abbot, assistant professor in geophysical sciences. Abbot has focused most of his work on periods deep in Earth history, when ice and snow may have covered the entire planet, and on other fundamental problems in climate dynamics and variability.
Pushing to smaller planets
But last July, he and Eric Switzer, postdoctoral fellow at the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, published a paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters about conditions under which an earthlike-planet that has been ejected from its planetary system could sustain a life-nurturing liquid ocean. Switzer, a member of the South Pole Telescope team, primarily studies deep-space phenomena, including the afterglow of the big bang.
“We met at a party and were walking out together and found out we lived in the same neighborhood, then the same building, then the same floor,” Abbot said. “Then we started talking about various science questions.”Their rogue-planet paper resulted from their discussions. But with exoplanetary research emerging as a new focus in the departments of geophysical sciences and astronomy & astrophysics, such collaborations are more likely to arise intentionally rather than from serendipitous encounters.
“The culture around here is that departmental and divisional boundaries just don’t mean anything,” Foote said. “In general, people follow their interests irrespective of what other units the folks are appointed in.”
Bean comes to UChicago from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where he worked as a postdoctoral researcher. His interests include finding new planets to determine the census, orbits and masses of planets, and the architecture of planetary systems, as well as studying the detailed physical properties of individual planets.
Bean would especially like to detect and study ever-smaller planets. “The ultimate goal is to find and study Earth-size extrasolar planets that may be habitable,” he said.
Observing low-mass stars is a practical way to detect smaller planets because the techniques Bean uses all involve measuring a signal relative to the planet’s host star. A star of low mass and small size facilitates the detection of smaller planets for a given level of precision as compared to larger stars, which include the sun.
“In the push to smaller planets, low-mass stars offer a shortcut,” Bean said. “It also turns out that low-mass stars are the most numerous type of stars in our galaxy, so taking the census of planets around these stars is an important component of understanding the overall planet population.”
Bean noted that UChicago’s newly acquired access to the Magellan Telescopes and its founding membership in the Giant Magellan Telescope will be critical to his future success. “I look forward to making many exciting discoveries with these facilities,” he said.
Fabrycky is a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where his research has focused on the Kepler mission to find Earth-size planets around other stars. He specializes in the dynamics of exoplanets and their orbital characteristics.
For Kepler he’s been studying the architecture of planetary systems using the passage of the planets in front of their stars. “The precise timing of those mini eclipses, called transits, tells you about what other planets are acting gravitationally in the system,” he explained. “If you see one planet whose transits are not perfectly periodic, that means it’s likely being gravitationally acted on by another planet.”
Fabrycky is a relatively rare theorist in the community of exoplanetary scientists, most of whom are observers. “I am interested in observations as well,” he said, but from a more theoretical or mathematical point of view. “I can see things in the data that other people miss and I think that’s my strength.”
Steve Koppes | Newswise Science News
Quantum optics allows us to abandon expensive lasers in spectroscopy
22.11.2017 | Lomonosov Moscow State University
Nano-watch has steady hands
22.11.2017 | University of Vienna
The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
22.11.2017 | Business and Finance
22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy