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Meet The Astronomer - Dr. Ryan Oelkers

Friday, September 07, 2018,
  • Location: Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory • 1000 Oman Drive • Brentwood, TN 37027

Solving Big (Data) Problems with Small Telescopes

Technological advancements in the past two decades have led to a dramatic rise in the number of cost-effective, small-aperture telescopes (< 4 inches in diameter) which monitor large portions of the sky on a nightly basis. Small telescopes have contributed to thousands of observations, of millions of stars, at regular intervals during the past decade. These observations have led to the discovery and understanding of many elementary questions in planetary and stellar astrophysics, but have created a new problem for astronomers: There is too much data to investigate! I will explore my experiences using small telescopes, our best efforts to explore our increasingly large datasets, and some of the more peculiar discoveries for the past two decades including: more than 5000 exoplanets, stars with evolving pulsations, binary stars with separations larger than a parsec, and some phenomena which have yet to be fully explained. This talk is geared toward the general public.

A Question & Answer session will follow. The Seyfert telescope will open for viewing if weather permits. The talk is handicapped accessible, but the Seyfert telescope is on the second floor and only accessible by stairs.

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   Dr. Ryan Oelkers has been a postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt University in the Physics and Astronomy department since May of 2016. He earned a bachelors degree in mathematics from Stevens Institute of Technology in 2009, a masters degree in mathematics from Northwestern University in 2010, a masters degree in physics from Texas A&M University in 2015, and a doctorate in physics from Texas A&M University in 2016. Dr. Oelkers is a member of the NASA-TESS science team, and is a key contributor to the target selection for the survey. His research focuses on the identification of stellar variability in large photometric data sets, and he has independently identified tens of thousands of variable stars.  

background image from NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage team (STSci/AURA)

TICKETS: https://www.eventbrite.com/o/vanderbilt-university-dyer-observatory-2143130631