Exoplanetary Science

‘Hot Jupiters’: Drier Than Expected

July 29, 2014

Be aware of Open Source, a radio show on Boston’s WBUR that last week did a show about exoplanets and the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Earth 2.0 is available online, featuring David Latham (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), Dimitar Sasselov (Harvard University), Jason Wright (Penn State) and Sarah Rugheimer (a PhD student at Harvard studying exoplanet […]

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Tight Measurement of Exoplanet Radius

July 28, 2014

Both the Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes had a role to play in recent work on the planet Kepler-93b, whose size is now known to an uncertainty of a mere 120 kilometers on either side of the planet. What we have here is the most precise measurement of an exoplanet radius yet, a helpful result […]

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Transiting World at the Snow Line

July 23, 2014

It’s 9000 times easier to find a ‘hot Neptune’ than a Neptune out around the ‘snow line,’ that region marking the distance at which conditions are cold enough for ice grains to form in a solar system. Thus says David Kipping (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), who is lead author on the paper announcing the discovery […]

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Kepler-56: Misaligned Planets Around a Swelling Star

June 6, 2014

Although I’m sure I’ll refer to various papers presented at the American Astronomical Society this week in future entries, I’ll close our current look at the Boston meeting with word of two planets that will be falling into their star in short order (at least as astronomers measure time). Kepler-56b and Kepler-56c have a predicted […]

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Three Regimes of Planet Formation

June 5, 2014

On Tuesday I mentioned the work of Lars A. Buchhave, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), in connection with the Kepler-10c discovery. The latter is the so-called ‘mega-Earth’ now found to be seventeen times as massive as our own planet, with a diameter of about 29,000 kilometers. A larger population of solid […]

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Probing an Ancient Planetary System

June 4, 2014

The red dwarf known as Kapteyn’s Star — the name comes from the 19th Century Dutch astronomer Jacobus Kapteyn — is about thirteen light years from Earth in the southern constellation of Pictor, close enough that a small telescope can pick it out. Kapteyn’s efforts at cataloguing the star in 1898 revealed that it had […]

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Introducing the ‘Mega-Earth’

June 3, 2014

Building public interest in deep space is a long-term goal for most of us in the interstellar community, and the release of the film Interstellar this fall may set off a new round of discussion among reviewers and movie fans alike. Also helpful is the DVD release of the Neil deGrasse Tyson Cosmos series, given […]

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Sunset at Titan: The Problem of Haze

May 29, 2014

Given the high quality imagery returned by Cassini on an almost routine basis, it’s interesting to remember how little we knew about Saturn’s moon Titan back in November of 1980, when Voyager 1 made its closest approach to the planet. Think of the options the Voyager 1 team had in front of it. The craft […]

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Exomoons: A New Technique for Detection

May 21, 2014

A friend asked me the other day whether my interest in exomoons — moons around exoplanets — wasn’t just a fascination with the technology of planet hunting. After all, we’ve finally gotten to the point where we can detect and confirm planets around other stars. An exomoon represents the next step at pushing our methods, […]

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A New Marker for Planet Formation

May 20, 2014

Given how many planet-hosting stars we’re finding, any markers that can tell us which are most likely to have terrestrial worlds would be welcome. New work out of Vanderbilt University is now providing us with an interesting possibility. Working with the university’s Keivan Stassun, graduate student Trey Mack has developed a model that studies the […]

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