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Date: November 20, 2019
Speaker: Thomas Barclay, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Topic: Searching for New Worlds with NASA’s Exoplanet Missions
Time and Location: 1:00 p.m., with Q&A to follow in Conference Room C on the 1st floor at the American Center for Physics (www.acp.org), 1 Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD -- off River Rd., between Kenilworth Ave. and Paint Branch Parkway.
Abstract: The centuries-old quest for finding worlds beyond our Solar System has made rapid progress in the past few decades. NASA’s Kepler Mission, which operated from 2009-2018, was designed to survey a portion of our galaxy to search for Earth-size planets. Kepler revolutionized our knowledge of the frequency and diversity of exoplanets, and we now know that there are more planets than stars. NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS, launched in 2018) is building on Kepler’s legacy and searching for planets around our nearest stellar neighbors, those that are amenable to further characterization. I will present an overview of these missions and discuss the exciting discoveries they have enabled. I will also discuss what we can learn from NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, which will have capabilities to probe the atmospheric makeup of planets orbiting distant stars.
Biography: Dr. Thomas Barclay is an Astrophysicist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center where he is Director of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) Mission’s Guest Investigator program. He was formerly Director of the Kepler/K2 mission Guest Observer Office at NASA Ames Research Center where his work with the astronomical community led to thousands of astrophysical and planetary science discoveries including new planets, galaxies and supernovae. Dr. Barclay analyzes data from both ground and space-based exoplanet surveys to search for small, rocky planets and he specializes in devising new methods to confirm their planetary nature. Dr. Barclay grew up in Sheffield in Northern England and received his Ph.D. from the University College London in 2011 where he worked on ultra-compact white dwarf binary stars. He has participated in the discovery of over 800 exoplanets and is known for his discovery of Kepler-37b, a Moon-size planet that remains the smallest planet known outside of our Solar System.