David Alexander: Star-Planet Interactions & The Growing Space Landscape

Time……… Wed, July 15, 2015, 2:00 --- 5:00 pm Where……. Room 415, North Physics Building Speaker….  Prof. David Alexander, Rice University Title……….  Star-Planet Interactions; The Growing Space Landscape

Star-Planet Interactions

New planets are being discovered regularly around other stars.  The Kepler mission is able to detect close to Earth-sized planets in the calculated habitable zones of their parent stars.  The dramatic growth of exoplanet research in astronomy and its emphasis on discovering potentially habitable planets around other stars is a rich area for collaboration between space physicists and astronomers. Understanding the possible habitability of such planets requires a deeper knowledge of how the stars and planets interact and, in particular, what role magnetic fields play in this interaction.  This, in turn, requires a broad range of expertise covering stellar magnetism, stellar variability, exoplanet discovery and characterization, and, most importantly, space plasma physics.  We are well placed within the solar and space physics communities to make significant and unique contributions to this growing discipline.  In this talk I will outline the general approach to exploring star-planet magnetic interactions utilizing our knowledge of the Sun’s interactions with the Earth, Saturn and Jupiter as calibration points and the rich array of modeling such systems.  


The Growing Space Landscape

Space has typically been regarded as a destination and space efforts have been focused entirely on placing assets in orbit to either provide services (e.g. entertainment, navigation, telecommunications) or to explore space itself (e.g. Mars rovers, ISS, Hubble Space Telescope). However, in recent years, we have witnessed a gradual transition from large-scale, government-led exploration to a more versatile and agile approach as private enterprises become increasingly involved. The dynamics of space exploration are rapidly changing with the promise of easy and routine access becoming a reality, opening up the space frontier to any and all.   There is also increasing discussion on how to utilize space for the benefit of life on Earth. In this talk I will discuss the developing space ecosystem including developing space for the benefit of life on Earth, international collaboration in space, exploring Mars, and space tourism.