Brad Hansen


Office: 3-913, Physics and Astronomy
Phone: (310) 825-5924
Fax: (310) 206-2096


Physics and Astronomy, and
Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics ,

Positions held in the past:

Hubble Fellow, Princeton University
Research Associate, Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics


Ph.D., 1996, California Institute of Technology  
Undergraduate: University of Natal, Durban
High School: St Henry's College, Durban


Curriculum vitae (PDF)


Research Interests: Theoretical Astrophysics

Extrasolar Planets [1] are my principal subject of interest today. My students and I pursue both theoretical and observational programs on a variety of topics.

On the observational side, along with my former student Ian Crossfield, and long-time collaborator Travis Barman, we have pursued a program over the last several years to observe transmission spectra of extrasolar giant planets. These observations offer the promise of constraining the chemical compositions of planetary atmospheres, and the techniques we develop will hopefully prove useful one day in performing similar measurements on lower mass, earth-class planets. More detail on this work can be found here .

Recent theoretical work has focussed on the origin and formation of systems of multiple low-mass planets around nearby stars. Observations now suggest that these may be the dominant population of planets in our galaxy, especially if such systems are found around low-mass M dwarfs, which are the dominant stellar demographic in the Galaxy. Along with Norm Murray, at CITA, I have been studying the in situ assembly of rocky planets on sub-AU scales around stars of different mass. Our models are able to provide an encouraging match to the observed distribution, and a much better fit that the more conventionally assumed models based on the concept of migration. More detail on this work can be found here .

I also maintain a long-standing interest in the existence and survival of planets around evolved stars. This dates back to my days as a graduate student, when I worked on models for the formation of the pulsar planets, and continues today with studies of planetary systems around white dwarfs. My current graduate student, Shane Frewen, is studying the evolution of planetary systems around both white dwarfs and subgiant stars. More detail on this work can be found here .

White Dwarfs[2] are the end product of stellar evolution for most stars (except for those massive enough to explode as supernovae). As such, the study of old white dwarfs can tell us a lot about the history of star formation in our Galaxy. By the time a star has reached the white dwarf stage, it has exhausted all the nuclear burning resources with which it was born. With no remaining reservoir of energy supply white dwarfs slowly cool and fade over time. I have worked a lot on theoretical models for the evolution and appearance of white dwarfs of different kinds. With my observational collaborators, I have used these models to estimate the ages of various stellar components of our Galaxy, including both the stars in the immediate vicinity of the sun and some of the nearest globular clusters. One of our recent results is a setting a lower limit on the age of our Galaxy of approximately 11 billion years.

Neutron Stars and Black Holes[3] are the first objects I worked on, during my PHD. My most recent interest in this subject concerns the black hole at the center of our Galaxy and the immediate environment. With my students Steve Berukoff and Elliot Koch, I have been studying the dynamics of thousand-solar mass black holes orbiting the main black hole. We believe these `intermediate mass' black holes may have played an important role in the transport of young stars to the Galactic center and they will have an important influence on the resulting dynamics.

Selected Recent Publications:
Planet Atmospheres:

I. J. Crossfield, T. Barman, B. Hansen & A. Howard,
``Warm ice giant GJ 3470b. I. A flat transmission spectrum indicates a hazy, low-methane, and/or metal-rich atmosphere''
Astronomy & Astrophysics, Vol 559, Page 33 (2013)

I. J. Crossfield, T. Barman, B. Hansen, T. Tanaka & T. Kodama,
``Re-evaluating WASP-12b: Strong Emission at 2.315 μm, Deeper Occultations, and an Isothermal Atmosphere''
Astrophysical Journal, Vol 760, Page 140 (2012)

I. J. Crossfield, T. Barman & B. Hansen
``High-resolution, Differential, Near-infrared Transmission Spectroscopy of GJ 1214b''
Astrophysical Journal, Vol 736, Page 132 (2011)

I. J. Crossfield, B. Hansen, J. Harrington, J. Cho , D. Deming, K. Menou, S. Seager
``A new 24 micron Phase Curve for upsilon Andromedae b''
Astrophysical Journal, Vol 723, Page 1436 (2010)

Planet Dynamics :

B. Hansen
``Perturbation of Compact Planetary Systems by Distant Giant Planets''
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol 467, Page 1531 (2017)

B. Hansen & J. Zink
``On the potentially dramatic history of the super Earth rho 55 Cancri e''
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol 450, Page 4505 (2015)

B. Hansen & N. Murray
``Testing In Situ Assembly with the Kepler Planet Candidate Sample''
Astrophysical Journal, Vol 775, Page 53 (2013)

B. Hansen & N. Murray
``Migration then Assembly: Formation of Neptune-mass Planets inside 1 AU''
Astrophysical Journal, Vol 751, Page 158 (2012)

White Dwarf Cooling:

B. Hansen et al.
``Constraining Neutrino Cooling using the Hot White Dwarf Luminosity Function in the Globular Cluster 47 Tucanae''
Astrophysical Journal, Vol 809, Page 141 (2015)

B. Hansen et al.
``An Age Difference of 2 Gyr between a Metal-Rich and a Metal-Poor Globular Cluster''
Nature, Vol 500, Page 51 (2013)

B. Hansen et al.
``The White Dwarf Cooling Sequence of NGC6397''
Astrophysical Journal, Vol 671, Page 380 (2007)