This week we are airing Fraser’s interview with Dr. Cole Miller, Professor of Astronomy at the University of Maryland, College Park. Dr. Miller led one of two separate teams that analyzed Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) data – specifically that for pulsar called J0030+0451 (J0030) in the constellation Pisces – and were able to map the surface features of a pulsar for the first time.
Tonight we welcome Dr. Michael Werner and Dr. Peter Eisenhardt, authors of the new book More Things in the Heavens which looks at how infrared astronomy is aiding the search for exoplanets and extraterrestrial life, and is transforming our understanding of the history and evolution of our universe. Included in their book are many spectacular images that have been captured by the Spitzer space telescope over its lifetime.
Tonight we are very excited to welcome Dr. Kathryn Bywaters, Research Scientist at the SETI Insitute where she is currently working on the development of life-detection instrumentation for future space exploration. Additionally, she is investigating the nutrient constraints microbes would have on Mars as well as performing experiments in Mars analog environments.
This week we welcome Dr. Rory Barnes to the Weekly Space Hangout. Rory is an assistant professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrobiology Program at the University of Washington. He is also a member of NASA’s Virtual Planetary Lab as well as the University of Washington’s Big Data program. He studies the habitability of exoplanets with astrophysical, geophysical, and atmospheric computer models.
In August 2019, Rory released VPLanet, an open source, virtual planet simulator that links physical processes together and enables phenomena from one region of a planetary system to be tracked throughout its entire system. Eventually, it is hoped that this will help determine if an exoplanet is capable of supporting life.
VPLanet currently includes two modules which model the internal and magnetic evolution of terrestrial planets’ characteristics. However, being open source and designed for easy growth, researchers are able to write additional physical modules which can be easily integrated with VPLanet in essentially a “plug and play” manner.