Dave Charbonneau (Harvard) was in town today, to give the Big Apple Colloquium, which he did with flair. He emphasized the importance of exoplanets in any study of astrophysics or in any astrophysics group or department. He emphasized the amazing value of M-dwarfs as exoplanet hosts: Exoplanets are abundant around M-dwarfs, they are easier to detect there than around Sun-like stars, they are shorter-period at same temperature, and they tend to host small, rocky planets. He showed beautiful work (with Dressing) on the population statistics and also on the compositions of the small planets, which do indeed seem like they are Earth and Venus-like in their compositions. He also talked about TESS and it reminded me that the projects we have going here on Kepler and K2 should all also be pointed at TESS. It is often said that TESS will not be good for long-period planets, but in fact there is a large part of the sky that is viewed for the full year.
In group meeting we talked more about our crazy asteroseismology ideas. Foreman-Mackey and Fadely explained a recent paper about building Gaussian Processes with kernels that represent power spectra that are mixtures of Gaussians in Fourier space. I have a hope that we can use a model like this to do asteroseismology at very low signal-to-noise, bad cadence, and with massive missing data. Any takers?
In our morning informal talk, Yossi Shvartzvald (TAU) showed us results from a global network of planet-oriented microlensing monitor telescopes. They are observing so many stars in the bulge that there are some 50 events going off at all times in their data, and they are getting a few exoplanet discoveries per year. Awesome! He showed that we can already do some pretty confident planet occurrence rate calculations with the data, and this is the first time that we can constrain the statistics of true Jupiter and Saturn and Uranus analogs: Unlike RV and transits, the discoveries don't require monitoring for decades! Also, he talked about what is called "microlensing parallax", which is something I have been interested in for years, because it so beautifully converts angles into distances.