Virtual Presentation to University Lowbrown Astronomers

Prof. Meyer had the good fortune to present a public lecture on Friday, April 17, to the University Lowbrown Astronomers, an amateur astronomy club in Southeast Michigan that does a great deal of wonderful outreach and informal education in the community (in addition to being passionate observers of the night sky).  Of course the event was virtual in these extraordinary times.  About 50 people participated on-line and a recording of the event is posted here.  The talk was entitled “A Wider Perspective on our World:  Searching for Earth-like Planets”.

FEPS helps welcome Marcia Rieke to UM, recipient of the Mohler Prize

Marcia Rieke, Regents Professor of Astronomy and Astronomer at the Steward Observatory of the University of Arizona, is visiting this week.  Marcia is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, well-known for her service work in the community helping to run panels for multiple decadal surveys of astronomy and astrophysics, and for receiving several professional several awards.   She is also a leading instrumentalist and PI of NIRCam, the main 1-5 micron imaging camera for the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope.  Our recent group is involved in several guaranteed time programs through participation in the NIRCam and NIRISS Science Teams, Early Release Science Progams, and gearing up for Cycle 1 proposals due in early May.    Marcia shared a public lecture February 26, which was well-attended as reported by the Michigan Daily even though we were in the middle of a late winter snow storm!  Marcia also visited with the FEPS Team and will present the department colloquium February 27.

Farewell, Spitzer Space Telescope!

Thursday, January 30, NASA will send one final command to the Spitzer Space Telescope, switching it off for good.  The 85 cm infrared member of NASA’s Great Observatories was launched in 2003 and made huge contributions to many areas of astrophysics including the discovery and characterization of exoplanets.  Prof. Meyer led one of the first Legacy Science Program, Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems (FEPS) from which this research group takes its name!  More information can be found in this on-line article.  Prof. Meyer recently participated in a study to understand how to preserve multi-wavelength space telescopes in the future (NASA COPAG SAG 10 Study report can be found here).

FEPS @ the 235th American Astronomical Society

Undergraduate researcher Nick Susemiehl and Prof. Michael Meyer attended the 235th meeting of the American Astronomial Society January 3-9 in Honolulu, Hawaii.  Nick presented a poster #170.10 entitled “The Orbital Surface Density Distribution and Multiplicity of M Dwarfs” while Meyer presented a short talk #122.06 entitled “AO-Assisted Ground-based Mid-IR Imaging in the JWST Era:  MIRAC-5 with Geosnap”.  Dr. Meyer also presented in sessions sponsored by the Cosmic Origins Program Analysis Group concerning JWST and the future of the Great Observatories at NASA, as well as running the Exoplanet Program Analysis Group meeting #21 which took place before the AAS.  An important feature of the meeting was recognizing the contributions of Native Hawaiians to astronomical navigation and thinking about how to honor this tradition respectfully as the future use of Mauna Kea for astronomy is considered.

Congratulations Tim Lichtenberg!

Former PhD student, Tim Lichtenberg, was honored with two prizes this past summer for his PhD thesis entited “Thermal Evolution of Forming Planets: Isotope Enrichment, Differentiation & Volatile Retention“.  Tim was a PhD student at the ETH in Zürich, Switzerland and is now a post-doctoral fellow at Oxford in the UK.  Tim was awarded the 2019 IAU PhD prize in Planetary Science, and shares the 2019 PhD award from the Astronomisches Gesellschaft.  Well done Tim!

UM to host JWST Master Class!

The University of Michigan will host a “JWST Master Class” in early March in Ann Arbor, MI.   Arthur Adams, a post-doc in the FEPS Group, led a proposal to participate in training to facilitate the workshop and was selected.  More information will be available soon.  We look forward to welcoming colleagues to Ann Arbor, and learning more about how to make the best use of JWST after launch in 2021!



Fine tuning the Universe?

A few years ago, I was asked to visit Oxford University and give a lecture, and participate in discussions about Fine Tuning and Life in the Universe.  Fine tuning refers to how everything might have to be “just so” in order for life to emerge in our Universe.  I personally think that the story of life in the Universe is one more of complexity and filling all available phase space, so that anything that could happen, will (Epicurus, circa 300 B.C.).  It was good fun, except that our event was eclipsed by the announcement of the discovery of gravitational waves on that.  very.  day.  I had forgotten about it, but a colleague recently reminded me about it and I found the link to the video conversations here.  Perhaps these, and other conversations linked there will be of interest to someone.

Welcome Arthur Adams and Rory Bowen to FEPS!

Arthur Adams, having recently (and successfully) defended his PhD at Yale, joins the Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems research group at the University of Michigan.   Arthur worked on a variety of tops with Greg Laughlin and collaborators at Yale including thermal phase curves of close-in exoplanets, as well as climate modelling of other worlds.  He is going to continue this work, as well as help our research group also prepare for the launch of JWST.

We also welcome Rory Bowens, who graduated last spring from Penn State.  Rory is a new graduate student in the Department of Astronomy.   Rory will be working in our laboratory, helping test the new Geosnap detectors, as well as preparing to get them on-sky for high resolution observations of exoplanets.

We are super-excited to have these fine scholars join our team!