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Dr. William Herbst, "The case of the Winking Star: New Insight into the Formation of Terrestrial Planets"

Date: 11/20/08
Time: 3:30-5:30 p.m.
Audience: Public
Sponsored By: School of Science and Engineering
Location: Coykendall Science Building Lounge and Auditorium
Contact: Dr. Julio Gonzalez, x3724,

About a decade ago, a star with unique behavior was discovered. The behavior was described as "winking". Every 48.37 days, the star dropped in brightness to just a few percent of its normal brilliance, stayed there for a couple of weeks and then recovered. As time has gone on, the star has spent more and more time in its faint state, such that by the time of this talk, it may not be brightening at all. This object, now known as KH 15D, has turned out to be something of a Rosetta stone for investigating the formation of terrestrial planets. Dr. William Herbst is the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy at Wesleyan University. He and his students are the discoverers of KH 15D. Dr. Herbst will describe how the mystery of the winking star was solved and what it is now telling us about the formation of planets similar to the Earth.