Probing Nearby Planetary Systems via Debris Disk Imaging

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Date/Time:Monday, 13 Sep 2010 from 4:10 pm to 5:10 pm
Location:Physics, Room 5
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Karl Stapelfeldt (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech & NASA)

Many main-sequence stars possess tenuous circumstellar dust clouds believed to trace extrasolar analogs of the Sun's asteroid and Kuiper Belts. While most of these "debris disks" are known only from far-infrared photometry, a growing number of them are now spatially resolved. In this talk, I'll review what is currently known about the structure of debris disks. Using images from the Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes, I will show how thermal modeling of the resolved systems can place strong constraints on the disk's dust properties.
Some of the disks show disturbed structures suggestive of planetary perturbations; specific cases will be discussed where directly-imaged exoplanets are clearly affecting the disk structure. Early results from ESA's Herschel Space Observatory, the newest tool for resolved disk imaging, will be discussed.

Karl R. Stapelfeldt is an astronomer and research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena California. Since 1999 he has worked on NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope mission, defining and executing early mission science, and determining focus for Spitzer's MIPS instrument. Prior to Spitzer he worked extensively with the Hubble Space Telescope in association with JPL's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 Science Team. Dr.
Stapelfeldt's research focuses on star and planet formation, circumstellar disks, high contrast imaging, and extrasolar planets.
He has taught introductory astronomy at both USC and UCLA. He received a B.S.E. in aerospace engineering & engineering physics from Princeton University in 1984, his Ph.D. in astronomy from Caltech in 1991, and then did two years of postdoctoral work at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has been at JPL since 1993.