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Lecture | Oort lecture 2019

Starquakes and Exoplanets in our Milky Way

  • Prof.dr. Conny Aerts (KU Leuven)
Wednesday 17 April 2019
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden
Groot Auditorium

This lecture is fully booked. Via the registration form you can place yourself on the waiting list. You will be notified when a spot opens up.

Just as with our Sun and Earth, the lives of other stars and their exoplanets are intimately connected. By knowing more about a star, we can learn more about the planets circling it and their ability to contain life. One particular star phenomenon that can give us incredible accurate insights is starquakes: smooth shakings of a star due to internal rearrangements. These quakes are slightly similar to our own earthquakes but occur much more regularly.

In this year’s Oort lecture, professor Conny Aerts of the University of Leuven, will take the public into the world of asteroseismology, showing which undiscovered data we can retrieve from starquakes and how they can tell us more about exoplanets and their habitability.

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Image credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger

Getting a profound inside glance

Recent detections of starquakes by space missions allow us to probe the interiors of stars, something which has never been possible with classical astronomical observations. Starquakes offer a unique way to calculate the size, weight and age of a star with unprecedented precision. The measurements also reveal the inner rotation of thousands of stars.

Aiding the search for life

Armed with asteroseismology, Aerts will recall last year’s Oort lecture on the search for extraterrestrial life and will highlight how a carefully planned marriage between starquake data from space and velocity data from ground-based telescopes allows us to infer potential habitability of exoplanets in the most efficient way. She will also show an optimal roadmap towards the search for life on exoplanets circling a variety of host stars in our Milky Way.

About Conny Aerts

Conny Aerts originally studied mathematics. After her graduation from Antwerp University in 1988, she obtained a PhD degree in astrophysics at the University of Leuven. She continued her career as postdoctoral fellow of the Research Foundation Flanders. She then transferred to the University of Leuven where she became a full professor. Aerts also leads the Chair in Asteroseismology at the Radboud University Nijmegen.

Image credit: Rob Stevens, KULeuven

Aerts’s research concerns stellar physics, including stellar structure & evolution and variable stars. She is a pioneer of asteroseismology, which received a major boost thanks to the CoRoT (2006), Kepler (2009), and TESS (2018) space missions. Prior to the era of high-precision space photometry, Aerts developed rigorous mathematical methods to detect and identify non-radial stellar oscillations. Her team designed and applied statistical classification methods and clustering algorithms in a machine-learning context, and discovered numerous gravity-mode pulsators in space photometry. As of her appointment as Chair in Asteroseismology at the Radboud University Nijmegen in 2004, Aerts introduced herself into the topic of subdwarf stars, their binarity and pulsations.

30 years of Oort lectures

The yearly Oort lecture, in memory of the famous Dutch astronomer, is organized by the Jan Hendrik Oort Foundation and the Leiden Observatory. The Oort lecture is intended for a wide audience with an interest in astronomy and is given every year by a prominent astronomer. This year is the 30th edition.

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