Eric L. N. Jensen
Astronomy Research and Teaching
|T Tau in the infrared||T Tau in visible light|
|Why so different?|
I'm a professor in, and chair of, the Physics and Astronomy Department at Swarthmore College. My research interest, broadly speaking, is astrobiology, the study of the origin and distribution of life in the cosmos. This page gives a short introduction to what I do.
I work with the Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope (KELT) survey for extrasolar planets. My students and I use the Peter van de Kamp Observatory here at Swarthmore to search for transits (small eclipses) that occur when planets pass in front of their host stars. These transits not only reveal that a planet orbits that star, but the depth of the eclipse allows us to determine the planet's radius. Here's a story about the first two planets discovered by the survey.
I also study protoplanetary disks around young binary stars. I'm interested in planet formation in binary systems, and whether such planets would be habitable. Since more than half of all stars are members of binary systems, understanding how often planets form in binaries is important for understanding the frequency of planet formation in the universe and the likelihood of life outside our solar system.
One (old) project related to this topic is observations of disks around T Tauri, an unusual young binary system. Though much of my work in this area is now over 10 years old, the next few years promise some exciting new results; my collaborators and I have been granted observing time with ALMA, a new array of millimeter telescope in Chile, to make much more sensitive observations of these disks than we were able to in the past.
I'm interested in life beyond Earth, and along with my colleague Amy Cheng Vollmer, Professor of Biology, I've given some talks about some basic astrobiology concepts. Here's a lecture we gave on this topic.
Increasingly, I've been using Blackboard or Moodle as the course web page for courses I'm teaching. One downside of that is the difficulty of linking to those courses so that people other than the students can see what I'm doing. Below are links to a few course pages that should be accessible (though in some cases they link to more recent iterations of the courses, taught by other people).
Comments or suggestions to Eric Jensen,
Last modified: Thu Dec 13 11:47:11 EST 2012