Learning Resources for the 2018 Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science

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Links to recommended readings and more information to help you continue learning about this year's topic. This webpage will be updated as the lectures progress.

Lecture #1, John Johnson

How To Look for a Liveable Planet presented by John Johnson, Professor of Astronomy and Director of Graduate Studies - Harvard University, on January 20

Exoplanets: Crash Course Astronomy #27 This fun learning research is a crash course about exoplanets -- planets outside our solar system in less than 7 minutes. This rapid guided tour of the techniques scientists are using to discover and study exoplanets is narrated by two enthusiastic personalities. Take the crash course here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFPnOUSdMdc

Kepler Space Telescope: Exoplanet Hunter
The scientific objective of the Kepler Mission is to explore the structure and diversity of planetary systems by surveying a large sample of stars to:

  • Determine the percentage of planets that are in or near the habitable zone of a wide variety of stars
  • Determine the distribution of sizes and shapes of the orbits of these planets
  • Estimate how many planets are in multiple-star systems
  • Determine the variety of characteristics of short-period giant planets
  • Identify additional members of each discovered planetary system using other techniques
  • Determine the properties of those stars that harbor planetary systems. Learn lots more about the Kepler mission and see videos, images at this website: www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFPnOUSdMdcexoplanets.org

The Exoplanet Data Explorer7
The Exoplanet Data Explorer is an interactive table and plotter for exploring and displaying data from the Exoplanet Orbit Database. The Exoplanet Orbit Database is a carefully constructed compilation of quality, spectroscopic orbital parameters of exoplanets orbiting normal stars from the peer-reviewed literature, and updates the Catalog of nearby exoplanets. Explore more here: http://exoplanets.org/

A Brief History of the Ups and Downs of Kepler's Explorations
If you dare, go to this website to watch space scientists sing, dance, and tell the dramatic story of the evolution of the next generation of the Kepler Space Telescope, "The Rise of "K2" If you dare: www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcWtg4bCjVM

TedxCambridge talk by Galactic Explorer Sara Seager
MIT Professor of Planetary Science and Physics Sara Seager shows us the techniques and tools she is using in the real-life search for alien life. See this Tedx presentation at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnM4SaGc8R0

TESS -- the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite
This first-ever spaceborne all-sky transit survey will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, around a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances. No ground-based survey can achieve this feat. Learn more at: tess.gsfc.nasa.gov/


Lecture #2, Suvrath Mahadevan

New Tools for Finding the Closest Earth-Like Planets, presented by Suvrath Mahadevan, Associate Professor of Astronomy & Astrophysics - Penn State, on January 27

The Habitable Zone Planet Finder (HPF)
Follow the story of HPF on the blog of the Habitable Zone Planet Finder team hpf.psu.edu and follow our live updates and other items of interest on Twitter @HPFspectrograph

The Hobby Eberly Telescope
Read about the recent re-dedication of the 10-meter Hobby Eberly Telescope in this Physics Today article http://physicstoday.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/PT.3.3592

The Most Precise Ground Based Photometry
See this news article that shows how Penn State astronomers achieved record-setting photometric precision http://science.psu.edu/news-and-events/2017-news/Mahadevan10-2017

NEID is the"newly-selected extreme-precision Doppler spectrograph" now in development at Penn State for high-precision Doppler observations of exoplanets around nearby stars. Follow the building and testing of the new NEID instrument on the blog of the NEID team, led by Penn State's Suvrath Mahadevan, at neid.psu.edu. Get live updates and items of interest on Twitter @NEID_at_WIYN


Lecture #3, Sarah Ballard

Shedding Light on Red Dwarf Stars
This Harvard Horizons talk by Elisabeth Newton is a crash course on how extremely common the smallest stars are, including images of what the night sky would look like if human eyes could see them. Watch the video of Newton's symposium, “Shedding light on red dwarf stars: Fundamental observations of our nearest stellar neighbors." www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgI8e21XjlE

How We'll Find Life on Other Planets
Learn more by watching Professor Aomawa Shield's TED talk about the search for life that might exist elsewhere in the universe, particularly in orbit around the smallest stars. www.ted.com/talks/aomawa_shields_how_we_ll_find_life_on_other_planets

Planet Hunters: A Citizen Scientist Project
Planet Hunters is a citizen science project in which anyone (maybe you?) can search NASA data for exoplanet signals. Just last month, Planet Hunters resulted in the discovery of a system with 5 planets. www.planethunters.org/


Lecture #4, Rebekah Dawson

NASA Kepler and K2 Missions Learn more on this website about the spacecraft that has discovered the most extra-solar planets. www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/main/index.html

LUVOIR Explore a NASA concept for a next-generation giant space telescope. https://asd.gsfc.nasa.gov/luvoir/

Gemini Planet Imager blog On this website, you can see blog posts and images of planets orbiting nearby stars, obtained in near-infrared wavelengths of light by the Gemini Planet Imager -- a next-generation adaptive-optics instrument on the Gemini South Telescope in Chile: http://cosmicdiary.org/blog/category/gpi/

Planet Hunters blog Read an interview with a citizen-scientist Planet Hunter member who has a non-science college degree and also is a coauthor of the scientific paper about the first exocomets discovered using the transit method. blog.planethunters.org

Latest astronomy results If you have a college-level science background, you may enjoy delving into the more technical aspects of research finders here: https://astrobites.org


The Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science is a program of the Penn State Eberly College of Science that is designed for the enjoyment and education of residents of the Central Pennsylvania area and beyond.

For more information or access assistance, contact the Eberly College of Science Office of Media Relations and Public Information by telephone at (814) 867-5830 or by e-mail at science@psu.edu.

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