Thursday, November 3, 2016, 9:00am
Natio Laboratory, Room 205, 12 Oxford Street
The recent Kepler mission discovered thousands of new worlds beyond our Solar System, hundreds of which may be terrestrial planets of similar size to our Earth. The mass of a planet is arguably its most fundamental physical parameter; it dictates its internal composition and structure, and its ability to have an atmosphere, an essential component for a potentially life-hosting planet. In an era of large telescopes and high-precision instruments, the ultimate challenge to determining the masses of small, rocky exoplanets lies not in our technological capabilities, but in our understanding of the host stars themselves. I will explain how magnetic features on the surfaces of stars compromise our efforts to determine the masses of these distant worlds. I will report on our ongoing investigation of the Sun, seen as an exoplanet-host star by one the world’s finest exoplanet-hunting instruments. This investigation is a crucial step in our endeavour to discover and characterise worlds like our own.
This work is funded by the John Templeton Foundation and NASA XRP Program #NNX15AC90G.