Kepler/K2 Bright Stars

While Kepler was engineered primarily to look at thousands of faint stars to do population statistics, planets transiting naked-eye stars, like the super-Earth 55 Cnc e, are the best targets for detailed characterization. Unfortunately, stars this bright saturate the Kepler and TESS detectors, making them hard or impossible to observe conventionally. Using 'smear' and 'halo' photometry, we can achieve normal Kepler-like precision on stars orders of magnitude brighter than it was ever meant to observe, and we hope to detect other golden targets like 55 Cnc e.

In addition to searching for planets, I will be releasing an asteroseismic catalogue of Kepler naked-eye red giants: these are ideal benchmark stars, as they are close enough to combine asteroseismology with interferometry and spectroscopy to properly pin down their physics with multiple independent constraints. These are important as an anchor for the stellar models we use for understanding more distant stars and exoplanets, as will become even more important in calibrating the upcoming full Gaia survey.

Smear Photometry

Collateral "smear" data, normally used as a calibration step for calibrating Kepler photometry, to obtain light curves of stars too bright to observe conventionally. This is described in greater detail in our MNRAS Letters paper. Many stars in the Kepler and K2 fields were unobserved/under-observed because of saturation, and smear photometry opens up a new window on the Kepler archive. I plan to release these light curves soon, but until then, if you're interested in collaborating on any Kepler light curves, I'd love to! Just send me an email and I'll do my best to help.

At the moment, I'm working towards a data release and paper for the Kepler Smear Campaign*. The main goal of this project is to characterize some of the nearest stars as completely as possible to use as benchmark stars, using a combination of asteroseismology (Kepler/K2), interferometry (CHARA) and spectroscopy. The biggest limitation in our ability to detect and characterize exoplanets is our lack of understanding of their host stars. This sample of asteroseismic benchmark stars, in particular red giants, is important for calibrating stellar ages in the agge of Gaia, TESS and PLATO.

Halo Photometry

I'm also collaborating with Tim White (Aarhus) on 'halo photometry', a new method of photometry using weighted sums of unsaturated pixels to minimize instrumental systematics. This has revealed variability in the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades for the first time and the paper, code and light curves will hopefully be available soon!

*You can blame Andy Casey for this suggestion.

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