Dynamical Complexities of Planetary Systems, Near and Far

Wednesdays@NICO | 12:00-1:00 PM, February 22, 2017 | Chambers Hall, Lower Level

Ben Nelson - Data Science Scholar, Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA) and Northwestern Institute for Complex Systems (NICO)

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For over 20 years, astronomers have been monitoring our local Milky Way with ground-based telescopes to look for planets orbiting other stars. Many of these exoplanets are unlike anything seen in our own Solar System. More recently, the Kepler Space Telescope provided high-precision observations of over 2300 exoplanets, allowing us to characterize planet populations. This large sample contributes important insights to the prevalence of different planet formation mechanisms and the uniqueness of our own Solar System.

I will present several data-driven studies of exoplanet systems. In the first half of my talk, I will show how one can use the observed orbital dynamics of well-studied planetary systems to probe their formation histories. The second half will focus on physical properties of exoplanet populations, including Super-Earths, Hot Jupiters, and closely-separated planet pairs. Throughout the talk, I will also highlight some open-source data analysis tools developed by the astronomy community and adopted from other disciplines.


Ben Nelson is an astrophysicist, specializing in exoplanet systems. His research focuses on inferring formation histories of individual systems and exoplanet populations through a primarily Bayesian perspective.

Ben is currently a Data Science Scholar with the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics and the Northwestern Institute for Complex Systems. He received his PhD in Astronomy & Astrophysics from The Pennsylvania State University.


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