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Dark Stars: The Hidden Universe of Brown Dwarfs

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Dark Stars - The Hidden Universe of Brown Dwarfs
Monday, September 19, 2016, 7:30 – 9:00 p.m.
Griffith Observatory
Of the roughly 400 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy, only a few thousand are visible on any given night from a dark sky site; most are too far away or too faint to be seen with the naked eye. But even with the best telescopes on the planet, there is a vast population of stars that are so cold that they are literally invisible, even when they are our immediate Galactic neighbors. Brown dwarfs — so-called “failed stars” — were discovered only 20 years ago, but they have already provided remarkable new insights into the properties of cool, compact objects and hot planetary-like atmospheres, including the exotic phenomena of rock weather, metallic states of hydrogen, and auroral-driven pulsar emission. In this talk, I will review the main physical properties of brown dwarfs (including why they are “brown”), how astronomers find them, and what studies have revealed about their physical properties. I will also introduce a few of my favorite brown dwarfs.
Above photo: This artist’s impression shows an imagined view from the surface one of the three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth that were discovered using the TRAPPIST telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. These worlds have sizes and temperatures similar to those of Venus and Earth and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the Solar System. They are the first planets ever discovered around such a tiny and dim star. In this view one of the inner planets is seen in transit across the disc of its tiny and dim parent star. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser.
Twin Brown Dwarfs
Adam Burgasser
Discovery of a Brown Dwarf Companion to Gliese 570ABC
Left image: This artist’s concept shows the dimmest star-like bodies currently known — twin brown dwarfs referred to as 2M 0939. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Middle photo: Adam Burgasser, UC San Diego Physics Professor and an observational astrophysicist. Right image: 2MASS images courtesy of the University of Massachusetts and the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center. Artist’s rendition by Dr. Robert Hurt of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center. (Click on left and right images for more information.)

Adam Burgasser is a Professor of Physics at UC San Diego and an observational astrophysicist, investigating the lowest-mass stars, cool brown dwarfs, and extrasolar planets. He uses ground-based and space-based telescopes to study the physical properties and processes of these objects, and is particularly interested in spectroscopic investigations that probe weather, multiplicity and magnetic activity. He is best known for defining the T spectral class, and was recently part of the team that discovered three Earth-sized planets around the nearby cool M star TRAPPIST-1. He has authored or co-authored over 200 peer-review publications in the field. Adam is also an artist who explores trans-sensory perception, embodied computation, and data-driven art production, and incorporates these practices into his teaching and outreach work through programs such as cosmOcosm, Beach Physics and Embodied Physics. He also works to improve the inclusion and equity of underrepresented minorities in the physical sciences. Originally from Buffalo, NY, Adam earned his Bachelor’s in Physics at UC San Diego in 1996, and his Master’s and PhD in Physics with an emphasis in Planetary Science from Caltech in 2001. He was a Hubble and Spitzer Postdoctoral Fellow, an NCAA Division 3 National Champion in springboard diving and Top 8 Scholar Athlete, and has received awards for distinguished teaching and contributions toward diversity at UC San Diego. In his spare time (when?) he enjoys surfing, traveling and chocolate chip cookies.

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Valerie Milano is the well-connected Senior Editor and TV Critic at, a website that aggregates showbiz news curated for, and written by, insiders of the entertainment industry. (@HwoodTimes @TheHollywood.Times) Milano, whose extraordinary talents for networking in the famously tight-clad enclave of Hollywood have placed her at the center of the industry’s top red carpets and events since 1984, heads daily operations of a uniquely accessible, yet carefully targeted publication. For years, Milano sat on the board as a chief organizer of the Television Critics Association’s press tours, held twice a year in Beverly Hills and Pasadena. She has written for Communications Daily, Discover Hollywood, Hollywood Today, Television International, and Video Age International, and contributed to countless other magazines and digests. Valerie works closely with the Human Rights Campaign as a distinguished Fed Club Council Member. She also works with GLSEN, GLAAD, Outfest, NCLR, LAMBDA Legal, and the Desert Aids Project, in addition to donating both time and finances to high-profile nonprofits. She has been an active member of the Los Angeles Press Club for a couple of years and looks forward to the possibility of contributing to the future success of its endeavors. Milano’s passion for meeting people extends from Los Feliz to her favorite getaway, Palm Springs. There, she is a member of the Palm Springs Museum of Art and a prominent Old Las Palmas-area patron.