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Danny Jacobs Colloquium Abstract (Sept 14, 2016)

New Horizons in Experimental Astrophysics: Exoplanets and the Cosmic Dawn

Six years ago, the US astrophysics community decided to focus on three big ideas for the future of the field: the birth of the first stars, the nature of exoplanets, and the physics probed by extreme objects.  In this talk, I will outline two revolutionary new experiments underway at ASU, HERA and SPARCS, that are pushing deep into the first two questions and uniting two seemingly disconnected fields.  HERA is a massive new radio interferometer -now taking shape in the remote Karoo desert of South Africa- that will map primordial hydrogen produced in the Big Bang and destroyed by the formation of the first stars over 13 billion years ago.  I will describe work led by SESE to design HERA's complex distributed computing systems and robotic calibration drones.  Meanwhile, SPARCS is a proposed mini space-telescope that will monitor red dwarf stars for solar flares. Most habitable zone exoplanets orbit red dwarfs, but red dwarfs flare more often than our sun, which can dramatically affect the exoplanet atmosphere. SPARCS will make the first dedicated survey of red dwarf flares. It will also be one of the first ever cubesats to be a dedicated astronomy mission; a new-breed of micro space-telescopes paving the way to a future of cheap, routine, space-based astronomy.  Together, HERA and SPARCS will connect the unique properties of stars-from their births at the beginning of the Universe to their present day influence on the many planets they harbor.  Through these projects, ASU is expanding new horizons on the big astrophysical questions and trailblazing new experimental approaches from the ground and space that will enable exciting discoveries for years to come.

Colloquium questions answered (PDF)