KU News: With next-generation space telescope, researchers glimpse first evidence of photochemistry on exoplanet

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With next-generation space telescope, researchers glimpse first evidence of photochemistry on exoplanet
LAWRENCE — Findings from an international team of astrophysicists using NASA’s recently deployed James Webb Space Telescope give new detail to exoplanet WASP-39b, a “hot Saturn” orbiting a star roughly 700 light years from Earth. The higher-resolution JWST data reveals the first indication of a photochemical byproduct — a chemical reaction accelerated by starlight — on an exoplanet.

School of Music announces performance dates for Vespers, Jazz Vespers
LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Music has announced the return of two beloved annual Vespers programs for the 2022 holiday season. KU Vespers, now in its 98th year, features performances at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4. Jazz Vespers, another free event, returns this year as well at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8. All performances take place at the Lied Center of Kansas.

Full stories below.

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Contact: Brendan Lynch, KU News Service, 785-864-8855, [email protected], @BrendanMLynch
With next-generation space telescope, researchers glimpse first evidence of photochemistry on exoplanet

LAWRENCE — Findings from an international team of astrophysicists using NASA’s recently deployed James Webb Space Telescope give new detail to exoplanet WASP-39b, a “hot Saturn” orbiting a star roughly 700 light years from Earth. The higher-resolution JWST data reveals the first indication of a photochemical byproduct — a chemical reaction accelerated by starlight — on an exoplanet.

This and other findings are included in a set of five new scientific papers, three of which are in press and two of which are under review. The new research also serves as a “test drive” for astrophysicists evaluating the JWST’s instrumentation by studying an exoplanet already measured by previous space telescopes like Hubble and Spitzer.
The research collaboration, known as the Transiting Exoplanet Community Early Release Science Program for the JWST, includes Ian Crossfield, assistant professor of physics & astronomy, who runs the KU ExoLab and has helped guide the JWST observing program as a member of the ERS Science Council since its inception.
“This is the first time photochemical byproducts have been detected in any planet outside the solar system,” Crossfield. “We fully expect that this is just the first of many such surprises as we use JWST’s unprecedented sensitivity to make new observations of these other worlds.”
Another KU scientist involved in the collaboration was Jonathan Brande, doctoral student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the KU ExoLab.
“Until JWST, we’d hit the limit at which we could continue characterizing this planet with our capabilities,” Brande. “Because WASP-39b had been so well-studied — and we thought we understood a lot of what was going on in the planet’s atmosphere — the ERS leadership team, including Ian Crossfield, decided that it would make a very good target for the first suite of observations from the James Webb Space Telescope. It could confirm our assumptions about this planet based on previous observations, and there was the possibility we would learn something new.”
Brande said observations with the new space telescope’s instrumentation offer more granular data covering a much broader wavelength range.
“We can study more of this planet’s atmosphere at higher resolution with more detail and really improve our modeling efforts to determine what’s going on in the planet’s atmosphere,” he said.
Among the major findings on WASP-39b presented by the research team:
1. The team found three of the JWST’s instruments “meet or exceed expectations for transmission spectroscopy of exoplanets” and don’t reveal errors in sensing or communicating that effect interpretation of the data.
1. The research collaborators found a “panoply” of atoms and molecules in WASP-39b’s atmosphere, including sodium, potassium, water, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and a “mystery molecule,” sulfur dioxide.
1. The sulfur dioxide in WASP-39b’s atmosphere is generated via photochemistry – chemical reactions catalyzed by starlight
1. The data suggest clouds in the atmosphere of the exoplanet. Additionally, “the cloud deck is not one uniform blanket but has more complex meteorological patterns.”
Brande worked as a key member of a group that wrote the software used to analyze data from JWST on “light curves” — measurements of light during a transit (when the exoplanet passes between its star and the JWST). Observing transits is typically how astrophysicists detect the makeup of an exoplanet’s atmosphere.
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Contact: Fally Afani, School of Music, [email protected], @MusicKU
School of Music announces performance dates for Vespers, Jazz Vespers
LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Music has announced the return of two beloved annual Vespers programs for the 2022 holiday season.
KU Vespers, now in its 98th year, features performances at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4. The event is free and open to the public, and it will feature performances and seasonal sounds from vocal and instrumental ensembles. Jazz Vespers, another free event, returns this year as well at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8. All performances take place at the Lied Center of Kansas. Though there is no admission fee, tickets must be picked up at the Lied Center box office.
About Vespers:

This year’s Vespers program will feature instrumental numbers, works that combine choir with orchestra and a cappella songs. The repertoire includes classics like “Ding, Dong Merrily on High!” in an arrangement by Ryan Murphy and “Gloria” (first movement) by John Rutter.
Musicians will also perform “Thixo Onothando,” a South African song of praise arranged by Michael Barrett; “Estrellita de Belén,” a folk-inspired new song by Ariel Quintana; “Kujichagulia” (self-determination, one of the principles of Kwanzaa), composed by Zanaida Robles; “El Yivneh Hagalil,” a traditional Hebrew folk song arranged by Peter Sozio; and the spiritual “Music Down in My Soul,” arranged by Moses Hogan. The program will also include the festive “Walz Les Patineurs,” written by Émile Waldteufel; Slavonic Dance 8 by Antonín Dvořák; and a piece from the opera “La traviata” by Giuseppe Verdi.
Also planned are special appearances by the KU Trumpet Ensemble, directed by Steve Leisring, and by the KU Trombone Ensemble, directed by Michael Davidson.
About Jazz Vespers:

The 2022 KU Jazz Vespers will feature performances of holiday favorites in a jazz and pop setting. This year’s edition of Jazz Vespers will feature 2022 DownBeat Award winners KU Jazz Ensemble I and a newly reassembled version of the KU Jazz Singers, along with featured guest artists Kerry Marsh and Julia Dollison, vocalists/arrangers.
Marsh is a graduate of KU (Bachelor of Music Education, 2000) who is one of the leading arrangers and publishers of vocal jazz music in the world today. He has worked with singer/songwriter Ben Folds for many years as an arranger and director in numerous performances with major symphony orchestras. Dollison, a classically trained soprano and experienced studio and jazz singer, released her critically acclaimed debut CD “Observatory” in 2005 and can be heard on the soundtracks for “Vera Drake,” “The Corpse Bride” and numerous commercials for Disney, Fox, Coca-Cola and others. In 2010, she and her Marsh released “Vertical Voices: The Music of Maria Schneider,” which was named as one of DownBeat’s Best Albums of 2010. Both Dollison and Marsh previously taught at the University of Northern Colorado and Sacramento State University, where their vocal ensembles and soloists won 19 DownBeat Student Music Awards.
For more information, visit lied.ku.edu or call 785-864-2787.

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