Dr. Adam Jensen

Associate Professor

Office: BHS 217   |    Phone: (308) 865-8878   |    Email: jensenag@unk.edu

Dr. Adam Jensen

Biography

I was interested in science from a very young age, and I remember checking out library books on topics ranging from paleontology to zoology to chemistry to astronomy. However, astronomy was the interest that ultimately stuck.  I began my academic career at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, obtaining B.Sc. degrees in physics (with a mathematics minor) and computer science. From there, I obtained M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder. I held postdoctoral positions at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (through the NASA Postdoctoral Program and the University of Maryland) and Wesleyan University (in Middletown, CT) before spending a year as a lecturer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I arrived at UNK in 2014. The research I did for my Ph.D. thesis and in my first postdoc dealt with the atomic gas-phase abundances in the interstellar medium, and trying to understand how these abundances change as the environment becomes denser and dustier. My move to Wesleyan in 2010 signaled a shift in my research to the atmospheres of exoplanets. You can read more about my research under "Research Interests" below.

On the personal side, I am married with three children.  My biggest active hobby is music - I am an electric guitarist, electric bassist, and singer at my church and I generally enjoy making noise with guitars, keys, and effects pedals at home.  I also enjoy TV and movies; you’re likely to find me at the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe movie or other sci-fi blockbuster, despite the often-questionable science content.  Finally, I enjoy both playing and watching sports.  My favorite sport to play is racquetball, which I do at UNK regularly.  I dabble in watching most of the major pro and college sports, but my biggest sports dream is that I will get to see a Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl Championship in my lifetime; this feels a little closer thanks to the emergence of Patrick Mahomes II!

Research Interests

It's somewhat simpler to define how I do research than what I research. I am an absorption spectroscopist, meaning I study the spectra of astronomical objects, examining absorption lines caused by intervening material. Spectroscopy in general, and particularly spectroscopy of atomic gas-phase material, provides a "fingerprint" of chemical composition and indicates temperature, motion, etc. I study two very different types of "intervening material": the interstellar medium and exoplanetary atmospheres.  (Exoplanets are any planets not in our own solar system.)  I studied the ISM for my Ph.D. and in my first postdoctoral position; beginning with my second postdoctoral position, I have focused more on exoplanetary atmospheres, although both are part of my ongoing projects.

My primary current expertise is in the study of hydrogen alpha absorption in the atmospheres of “hot Jupiter” exoplanets, large gas giant exoplanets very close to their stars.  The hydrogen alpha absorption line is a common spectroscopic line seen throughout the Universe, indicating a warm form of hydrogen; it’s a red color of light that contributes to the pinkish color of gaseous nebulas seen in space.  In 2012 I published the first detection ever of this spectroscopic line in the atmosphere of an exoplanet; recently, in 2018, I published another detection of this line in a different exoplanet, only the fourth such detection ever.

My research has enabled me to use some of the biggest and/or most famous telescopes in the world, like the Hubble Space Telescope, the Keck Telescope in Hawaii, and the Hobby-Eberly Telescope in Texas.  My side research projects include looking at Kepler data for new transiting exoplanets and interstellar medium projects related to dust- and gas-phase composition.

Teaching Interests

I teach a variety of our physics and astronomy classes.  I particularly enjoy teaching topics where I get to solve problems and interact with students as they work through their understanding of a problem.

Professional Activities

I present multiple planetarium shows per semester at UNK’s planetarium, either to my classes, school groups, or the general public on “Astro Fridays.”  I am also a part of NASA’s NExSS (Nexus for Exoplanet Systems Science) Research Consortium, a group looking for interdisciplinary ways to better understand exoplanets and the conditions that affect potential habitability.


Abridged CV

Selected Recent Publications

  • Hydrogen and Sodium Absorption in the Optical Transmission Spectrum of WASP-12b, Jensen, A. G., Cauley, P. W., Redfield, S., Cochran, W. D., and Endl, M., 2018, The Astronomical Journal, 156, 154
  • A Decade of H-alpha Transits for HD 189733b: Stellar Activity versus Absorption in the Extended Atmosphere, Cauley, P. W., Redfield, S., and Jensen, A. G., 2017, The Astronomical Journal, 153, 217
  • Evidence for Abnormal H-alpha Variability During Near Transit Observations of HD 189733b, Cauley, P. W., Redfield, S., and Jensen, A. G., 2017, The Astronomical Journal, 153, 185
  • A Search for H-alpha Absorption around KELT-3b and GJ 436b, Cauley, P. W., Redfield, S., and Jensen, A. G., 2017, The Astronomical Journal, 153, 81
  • Variation in the Pre-transit Balmer Line Signal Around the Hot Jupiter HD 189733b, Cauley, P. W., Redfield, S., Jensen, A. G., and Barman, T., 2016, The Astronomical Journal, 152, 20
  • Optical Hydrogen Absorption Consistent with a Thin Bow Shock Leading the Hot Jupiter HD 189733b, Cauley, P. W., Redfield, S., Jensen, A. G., Barman, T., Endl, M., Cochran, W., 2017, The Astrophysical Journal, 810, 13
  • The Interstellar Medium in the Kepler Search Volume, Johnson, M. C., Redfield, S., and Jensen, A. G. 2015, The Astrophysical Journal, 807, 162
  • A Detection of H-alpha in an Exoplanetary Exosphere, Jensen, A. G., Redfield, S., Endl, M., Cochran, W. D., Koesterke, L., and Barman, T. 2012, The Astrophysical Journal, 751, 86
  • A Survey of Alkali Line Absorption in Exoplanetary Atmospheres, Jensen, A. G., Redfield, S., Endl, M., Cochran, W. D., Koesterke, L., and Barman, T. 2012, The Astrophysical Journal, 743, 203

Professional Positions

  • Associate Professor, University of Nebraska-Kearney, Department of Physics & Physical Science, 2018-present
  • Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska-Kearney, Department of Physics & Physical Science, 2014-2018
  • Lecturer, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Department of Physics & Astronomy, 2013-2014
  • Postdoctoral Scholar, Wesleyan University, Astronomy Department, 2010-2013
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, Wesleyan University, Astronomy Department, 2012
  • Postdoctoral Researcher, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Maryland, 2009-2010
  • NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/ORAU, 2007-2009
  • Adjunct Instructor, Front Range Community College, 2005-2006
  • Graduate Student Instructor, University of Colorado-Boulder, 2005-2006

Education

  • Ph.D., Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences, University of Colorado-Boulder, 2007
  • M.Sc., Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences, University of Colorado-Boulder, 2004
  • B.Sc., Physics (Minor: Mathematics), University of Nebraska-Omaha, 2001
  • B.Sc., Computer Science, University of Nebraska-Omaha, 2001