News

Rare brown dwarf discovery provides benchmark for future exoplanet research

Direct image detection of a rare brown dwarf companion taken at Keck Observatory (Crepp et al. 2014, ApJ)

A team of researchers led by Justin R. Crepp, the Freimann Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Notre Dame, has directly imaged a very rare type of brown dwarf that can serve as a benchmark for studying objects with masses that lie between stars and planets. The team’s paper on the discovery, “The TRENDS High-Contrast Imaging Survey. V. Discovery of an Old and Cold Benchmark T-dwarf Orbiting the Nearby G-star HD 19467,” was recently published in The Astrophysical Journal.

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Crepp named Participating Kepler Scientist

 

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NASA has named University of Notre Dame astrophysicist Justin Crepp a Kepler Participating Scientist. As one of only 11 scientists in the country selected to participate, Crepp will advance the goals of the Kepler Mission by seeking to discover extrasolar planets, some of which may be in the habitable zone.

Crepp, the Freimann Assistant Professor of Physics, will utilize the world’s premier diffraction-limited facility, the adaptive optics system at the Large Binocular Telescope in southeastern Arizona, to make observations and significantly enhance and expand Kepler’s imaging program. His work will aim to provide a statistically significant determination of the frequency of Earth-size planets in and near the habitable zone of host stars.

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Discovery of an Earth-sized planet

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Justin Crepp, the Freimann Assistant Professor of Physics, talks about the discovery of an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a cool star. This video footage is made available to the media to use.…

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Notre Dame astrophysicist determines occurrence rate of giant planets around M-dwarfs

Justin Crepp

A study led by Notre Dame astrophysicist Justin Crepp has for the first time definitively determined how many of the lowest-mass stars in the galaxy host gas giant planets. The researchers’ paper, “The Occurrence Rate of Giant Planets around M-dwarfs,” was posted to arXiv this week and submitted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.

The group used ground-based imaging observations in combination with the Doppler radial velocity method to determine that 6.5 percent of low-mass stars, the so-called “M-dwarfs,” have planets located within 20 astronomical units, including the outer regions where researchers previously could not access.

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Astronomers, including Penn State Behrend alumnus, discover five new planets

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A NASA-led team of astronomers has discovered five new planets, two of which are a habitable distance from their star.

“It’s the system that most resembles the Earth’s,” said Justin R. Crepp, assistant professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame and a 2003 alumnus of Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. “These are the smallest planets we have found so far in a habitable zone.”

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Notre Dame astrophysicist discovers planets similar to Earth

Justin Crepp

Researchers for the first time have identified Earth-sized planets within the habitable zone of a Sun-like star. Images of the star taken by University of Notre Dame astrophysicist Justin Crepp rule out alternative explanations of the data, confirming that five planets orbit Kepler-62, with two located in the habitable zone. The results were published in Science magazine today.

“A five-planet system with planets of 1.41 and 1.61 Earth-radii in the habitable zone of a K2V star has been detected with the Kepler spacecraft and validated with high statistical confidence,” the paper reports. Those two, named Kepler-62 e and f, are the outermost of the five observed planets and receive a solar flux from the star similar to that received from the Sun by Venus and Mars. Their size suggests that they are either rocky, like Earth, or composed mostly of solid water.

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