Star and planet formation is highly dynamic: the appearance of the youngest stars can change dramatically in as little as a week. Even by the standards of typically unruly young stars, some /*stars*/ exhibit remarkable changes, increasing or decreasing in brightness by factors of 1000 or more. These brightness changes are thought to be caused by sudden changes in the star's growth rate, or in the structure of the planet forming material in orbit around the star.
Dr. Covey will describe the general properties of these outbursters and faders before recounting the discovery and characterization of several remarkable systems in a long-term study of the North American Nebula. In describing the effort to understand these enigmatic young stars, Dr. Covey will present observations from the largest telescopes on the ground and orbiting above us in space, as well as backyard observations obtained by dedicated hobbyists across the world.
Kevin Covey is a former RCA Member and was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and received his PHD is astronomy from the University of Washington. Kevin was a Spitzer Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and a Hubble Fellow at Cornell University.
Kevin is currently a research astronomer at Lowell Observatory and he is working to clarify how low-mass stars, and the planets they host, form and evolve.
Specifically, He studies how young stars gain mass and shed angular momentum without disrupting the planets forming around them. He also track how low-mass stars spin down over time: these measurements provide a valuable 'stellar clock' to estimate the ages of individual stars and give clues to how these stars generate magnetic fields and stellar winds.
He study these processes with data from large astrophysical surveys (e.g., the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Palomar Transient Factory, and the upcoming Large Synoptic Survey Telescope) as well as my own observations (typically optical and near-infrared spectra).
Kevin Covey's Web Site and Bio: http://www2.lowell.edu/users/kcovey/