Lecture: 16 August “…When Binary Stars Get Funky” by Susan Mullally, PhD, SETI, NASA

16 August 2016, Tuesday, 7:45 PM, Presidio Observation Post, Building 211

“Kepler’s Heartbeat Stars: When Binary Stars Get Funky”


Susan Mullally, PhD, SETI Institute, NASA Ames

Susan Mullay

Using the continuous, high-precision photometry available from the Kepler spacecraft, the Kepler team discovered a type of eccentric binary star named heartbeat stars. In these systems, the two stars come close enough to each other to cause large, periodic changes in the tidal deformation and mutual irradiation of the stars. Additionally, these tidal forces are known to cause the stars in some of these systems to continually ‘ring’ at shorter periods. Currently, we have discovered more than 150 of these in the Kepler data and have been taking extensive follow-up spectroscopy to model and understand these systems.

Dr. Mullally will present an overview of these systems and discuss how these systems are allowing us to explore the physics of stellar tidal dissipation

Brief Bio

Susan Mullally received her PhD from University of N. Carolina, Department of Physics. She currently pursues scientific inquiries on planets and variable stars, using both the Kepler Space Telescope and Kepler 2 photometric data. Her research also uses Kepler data to observe and characterize tidally induced orbital parameters of binary star systems.

About SFAA Presidio Lectures

Once monthly, the SFAA hosts distinguished guest speakers who are leaders in the fields of astronomy, physics and related disciplines. The speakers present to the public and SFAA members the latest developments from cutting-edge scientific programs.  The lectures are free.

Join us for informal coffee and light snacks at 7:30 PM followed by the General Meeting and announcements at 7:45 PM and lecture kick off at 8:00 PM.

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