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The Road to Nantes

Conferences are a big part of the scientific process – researchers from your sub-field and wider field get together to share the latest interesting results with talks and poster sessions. I love going to conferences, mainly because of the idea sharing. I always leave reinvigorated from the week of science conversations, new results, seeing collaborators you haven’t seen in awhile, and catching up with the friends you’ve made along the way.

The main conference I go to as a planetary astronomer is the American Astronomical Society’s (AAS) Division of Planetary Sciences (DPS) annual meeting. The conference is usually the first or second week in October each year. This year the conference is being hosted jointly with the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC), so EPSC-DPS will be held in Europe in Nantes, France  in October.

At the end of May, Chris and I wrote and submitted a EPSC-DPS Planet Hunters  abstract detailing the short period planet analysis we’ve been working on with your classifications. I’ve been working towards being able to measure the frequency of short period planets (periods less than 15 days) for different sizes and types of planets based on the Planet Hunters Q1 classifications.

I’ve been working on taking the classifications and building a pipeline combining the results from your classifications from each light curve and the classifications from the synthetic light curves to score the light curves from 0 to 1, where 1 is the highest likelihood the light curve has transits in it. I went to Chicago back in May to visit with Chris for two days at the Adler Planetarium with a preliminary version of the algorithm and code. Chris and I looked at the early results and schemed away on the white boards in his office  about ways to improve the algorithm (after discussions with Michael and time to introduce me to shuffle board). I went back to Yale  and have been working on implementing the game plan we came up with.

I have a preliminary pipeline that I think works, but I’m working on improving it and coming up with the final criteria to say, “yes this light curve has a transit in it”. I’ve gone through by eye and looked at ~2000 light curves selected by my code as having planet transits based on your classifications. I think I know what  is my major source of false positives, and I  am working on a way to reduce them in my final list of light curves that have transits.  Once I have that done, I’ll have a list of planet candidates and begin the process of comparing them to the Kepler candidates, false positives, and eclipsing binaries, and then I’ll be able to use the results from the synthetics to estimate our detection efficiency for different planet sizes and orbits.

We’ve been waiting to hear back from the organizing and session committee to find out if our Planet Hunters abstract was accepted and whether we were granted a talk or a poster.We asked to present a talk at EPSC-DPS. 1698 abstracts were submitted. 1236 abstracts requested talks, and there is simply not enough time to give everyone a talk. Some abstracts will  instead be presented as posters during the afternoon poster sessions. (I’ll also be presenting a poster on my KBO survey work at the conference).

We heard two weeks ago that our abstract was accepted, and even better news we were slotted to be the last talk in the CoRoT and Kepler results session. We’re very excited! We’ll be giving a 7 minute talk (titled First Results from Planet Hunters: Exploring the Inventory of Short Period Planets from Kepler) with about 3 minutes for questions – so not very much time, but long enough to share the highlights from Planet Hunters and the new results from our short period planet analysis. You can find our abstract online here. Chris and I will definitely blog and tweet about the conference.

We have a challenge for all of you – At the AAS spring meeting in May, the Planetometer™ had just reached 3 million classifications. We’ll flash the Planetometer™ during our talk, let’s have it say 4 million when we get to Nantes!

Back to work, lots to do before Nantes thanks to all your classifications.


PS. Congratulations are in order for Chris. He is being awarded the 2011 Royal Society Kohn award for being  zookeeper extraordinaire and for everything he’s done with the  Zooniverse and beyond or as the Royal Society aptly put it “for his excellent engagement with society in matters of science and its societal dimension.” Congrats Chris!

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