Exoplanet Conference Comes to Campus for Second Time

Broad Branch Campus Map with CHEXO sticky note attached,
In January 2020, the Chesapeake Bay Area Exoplanet meeting came to the Carnegie Science Broad Branch Road campus for the second time. Credit: Carnegie Science | Katy Cain
Wednesday, January 29, 2020 

Carnegie Earth and Planets Laboratory (formerly the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism and the Geophysical Laboratory) hosted the seventh Chesapeake Bay Area Exoplanet (CHEXO) meeting on Friday, January 24, 2020. It was the second time that the meeting, which happens approximately three times per year, has been held on the Carnegie Science Broad Branch Road campus.

The day-long conference, co-hosted by Carnegie Science staff scientist and theoretical astrophysicist Alan Boss, gathered more than 80 scientists from institutions across the Chesapeake Bay area to present and discuss the growing field of exoplanet research. Attendees enjoyed presentations from their colleagues punctuated by coffee breaks and lunch, which were provided by Carnegie Science in support of the meeting.

When asked about the importance of the meeting, Boss stated, "CHEXO meetings are an important opportunity for exoplanet scientists in the Chesapeake Bay region to meet and learn from one another, to begin new collaborations, and to support the research accomplishments of younger scientists, who are the featured speakers at the meetings."

The spirit of interdisciplinary study and collaboration was strong throughout the gathering as speakers presented on topics including planet formation, habitability, and exoplanet discovery. Presenters included exoplanet researchers from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Universities Space Research Association, the United States Naval Observatory, Bucknell University, Carnegie Earth and Planets, Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Pennsylvania, George Mason University, and Penn State. 

Néstor Espinoza kicks off the meeting by discussing the future of exoplanet discovery. Credit: Carnegie Science | Katy Cain

The meeting kicked off with a presentation by invited speaker Néstor Espinoza, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD. He discussed the detection and characterization of transiting exoplanets in the era of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

Fabo Feng discusses how his software, PEXO, helps avoid bias in the complex equations used to find exoplanets using the radial velocity method. Credit: Carnegie Science | Katy Cain

 Fabo Feng, a Carnegie Science postdoctoral fellow who recently led a study that reported on 16 new exoplanets, presented on how to avoid bias in barycentric correction for the detection of Earth twins. Feng advocated for the utility of PEXO, his open-source software for finding exoplanets using the radial velocity method. 

Matthew Clement explains how planets form, ultimately leading to people sitting around to discuss how planets form at CHEXO. Credit: Carnegie Science | Katy Cain

For the final presentation of the day, Matt Clement gave his talk entitled, "High-resolution simulations of planetary embryo accretion: reevaluating the initial conditions for terrestrial accretion." As recently reported in Science Magazine, Clement provided evidence for early planetary instability in our Solar System, which helps explain the odd layout of our small, tightly packed terrestrial planets.

The CHEXO meetings facilitate the sharing of ideas, expertise building, and collaborative research in the field of exoplanetary science. Learn more at chexo.org.