LPL Colloquium: Dr. Daniel Apai

Tuesday, Jan 28, 2014
3:45 pm
Location: Kuiper Space Sciences
Room: 312

Dr. Daniel Apai
Assistant Professor
University of Arizona - Steward Observatory/Lunar and Planetary Laboratory

Extrasolar Storms: Exploring Cloud Cover and Atmospheric Dynamics in Brown Dwarfs and Exoplanets
We entered in an exciting new era when ultracool extrasolar atmospheres can be studied in detail, revealing a regime in atmospheric physics and chemistry that is represented in the Solar System. The presence of condensate clouds in extrasolar planets and brown dwarfs strongly affect the energy transport through their atmospheres and, therefore, influence both the evolution of the atmospheres and the emerging spectra. The physical nature and properties of these cloud layers remain mostly unknown, but pose one of the great challenges in understanding ultracool atmospheres.
I will describe a new observing technique in this field, rotational phase mapping, that provides an exciting look into the atmospheres and clouds of exoplanets and ultracool brown dwarfs. I will discuss our four Hubble and three Spitzer programs, including a 1,144-hour Exploration Science program, that apply this new technique to a large number of targets. The observations reveal an exciting and often surprising picture on ultracool photospheres and their dynamics.
Finally, I will show how the success of these observations motivates future applications to directly imaged gas giant exoplanets and super-earths, whose photospheres and surface can be soon mapped in the near future.