On the Road Towards Earth-mass Planets

  • Eric B. Ford
  • An IDIES Bi-Monthly Seminar
  • When: December 04, 2019, 16:00
  • Where: Bloomberg 462
    Homewood Campus, Johns Hopkins University
    Baltimore, MD 21218


NASA’s Kepler mission discovered thousands of exoplanets and revealed that most sun-like stars harbor planetary systems.  Many of the next steps for exoplanet science require detecting and characterizing low-mass planets around nearby stars.  Thanks to significant progress in precision radial velocity instrumentation, upcoming Doppler surveys are poised to detect rocky planets in the habitable zones of nearby stars.  However, intrinsic stellar variability may limit the planet detection power of these surveys.  Both machine learning and astrophysical insights are likely necessary in order to enable the Doppler detection of Earth-like planets.   I will describe recent progress in data-driven modeling of spectroscopic time-series for detecting and characterizing exoplanets.  Finally, I will share my vision for research and education in the Data Sciences, based on recent experience with Penn State’s Institute for CyberScience and our new undergraduate major in Data Sciences.


Eric Ford’s research aims to understand the formation of planetary systems by applying modern statistical and computational methods to interpret extrasolar planet observations.  Ford is a Professor in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Director of the Penn State Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds, and an Associate Director of the Penn State Center for Astrostatistics.  Ford earned his Ph.D. in Astrophysical Sciences from Princeton University, was a Miller Fellow at UC Berkeley, a Hubble Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and faculty at the University of Florida.

In 2013, Ford joined Penn State as part of the Institute for CyberScience’s cluster hire initiative.  He serves on numerous committees, including the Penn State Data Sciences Major Management Committee, a NASA & NSF-commissioned Extreme Precision Radial Velocity (EPRV) Working Group and the National Advisory Committee for the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute.  Ford’s contributions have been recognized by the American Astronomical Society’s Warner prize and the AAS Division for Planetary Science’s Urey prize.

IDIES Bi-Monthly Seminar

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