The success of exoplanet detection observations from ground-based telescopes and space missions like Kepler has demonstrated that, on average, every star in the Milky Way hosts a planetary system. With so many planets now discovered, the challenge of the next three decades is characterizing those planets to assess their potential habitability and search for the signs of active biology. NASA is currently developing the concept for Ultraviolet/Optical/InfraRed Surveyor (LUVOIR) to discover ‘Pale Blue Dots’ around Sun-like stars beyond our solar system and probe their atmospheres for the signs of life. The University of Colorado Boulder is playing a leading role in the scientific and technical development of LUVOIR – including the only instrument design study led by a university.
In this presentation, France will give an overview of recent discoveries in extrasolar planets to provide a context for our place in the Milky Way, talk about the steps LUVOIR will take to discover and characterize biologically active worlds beyond the solar system. He will focus on the role CU Boulder is playing in this story and emphasize how CU’s space-flight experiments flying on rockets and small satellites today are paving the way for the instruments LUVOIR will require in the next decade.
Following his CU on the Weekend program, France and his students will provide a free tour of the CU Boulder astrophysics rocket laboratory in the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). LASP is located on Innovation Drive and Colorado Avenue, east of the Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building. Advanced registration was required, but the tour is now full.
Kevin France is an assistant professor in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder. Dr. France’s research focuses on exoplanets and their host stars, protoplanetary disks and the development of instrumentation for space astrophysics. He is a regular guest observer with the Hubble Space Telescope, a member of the LUVOIR Science and Technology Definition Team and is the Principal Investigator of NASA-supported sounding rocket and small satellite programs to study exoplanet atmospheres and flight-test critical path hardware for a future missions like LUVOIR. Kevin received his doctorate from the Johns Hopkins University in 2006. Following a postdoc at the Canadian Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics in Toronto and a NASA Roman Fellowship, he moved into his present position at the University of Colorado Boulder. To find out more, visit France's website.