Scientific Colloquium
November 9, 2012

"Stellar Magnetic Activity with Kepler: Understanding Exoplanets in Light of their Host Stars"

Stellar magnetic activity leads to a variability on many timescales, from starspots that change the stellar brightness over days to months, to flares that evolve over the course of a few hours. These phenomena are revealed with exquisite detail in the high precision, high cadence photometry of NASA's Kepler Mission. The Kepler mission has now obtained more than three years of precision photometry for stars both like our sun and considerably different from it. Although Kepler's main goal is the discovery of exoplanets, it has made unprecedented contributions to stellar astrophysics. These new data offer a new chance to not only understand the stars themselves, but to understand the range of circumstellar habitats in which planets exist. In this talk, I will discuss ongoing work to characterize the variability due to starspots, stellar rotation and flares in the Kepler planet host stars and the larger sample of targets as a whole. This work provides valuable feedback to studies of planetary habitability by constraining the age of the system and the likely high energy flux due to flares at the top of the planetary atmosphere.

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