Topic: "Real estate within 100 parsecs: M dwarf stars for exoplanet surveys and Galactic archaeology" (Video)
Abstract: M dwarf stars are the staple of the Galaxy. By far the dominant type of hydrogen-burning body, they also have a knack for "hiding in plain sight" due to their relatively low luminosities. As a result, the census of M dwarfs has traditionally been very incomplete, even within the neighborhood of the Sun. I will present results from my SUPERBLINK survey, which is now identifying over 90% of all M dwarfs within 100 parsecs of the Sun -- over 300,000 new and/or barely explored objects. This new census opens up huge real estate opportunities in the search for exoplanets. I will explain why M dwarfs make such attractive targets for current exoplanet surveys, particularly in the search for Earth-mass objects within a "habitable" zone. In addition, M dwarfs live such long lives, that they hardly change at all over cosmological timescales (>10 billion years). I will describe my recent identification of thousands of very old M stars (also known as "M subdwarfs") in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and argue that these true "stellar fossils" hold a major key to understanding the formation and evolution of our Galaxy.