Bard Events Calendar

Physics Program Presents

Friday, March 3, 2017

Big Planets from Small Telescopes:
What We’re Learning About Exoplanets and How Small Observatories Are Making It Possible

Hegeman 107
12:00 pm

Eric L. N. Jensen
Swarthmore College

Since the discovery of the first extrasolar planet a little more than 20 years ago, the list of known planets orbiting other stars has grown to more than 3,000—but we are still in the early stages of understanding the diversity of other planetary systems.  A key part of this understanding has come from studies of planets that eclipse (or “transit”) their host stars as seen from Earth.   I will explain how studies of these planets allow us to determine their radii, masses, mean densities, atmospheric composition, and the angle at which they orbit relative to the parent star’s equator, all without being able to image the planets directly.  Small telescopes (with primary mirror diameters of 0.3–1 meter) play an important role in the larger “ecosystem” of telescopes that discover and characterize these planets, and such telescopes have been instrumental in the recent discoveries of planets around very bright stars that are much hotter than the Sun, and in the just-announced discovery of seven Earth-radius planets around the ultra-cool dwarf star Trappist-1.

For more information, call 845-752-7302, or e-mail

Time: 12:00 pm

Location: Hegeman 107