Exoplanetary Science

Photonic Chip Boosts Exoplanet Detection

December 8, 2016

The Australian Institute of Physics Congress ends today in Brisbane, concluding a schedule of talks that can be viewed here. Among the numerous research presentations was the description of a new optical chip for telescopes that should help astronomers tease out the image of a planet through thermal imaging, nulling out the light of the […]

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Tight Constraints on Orbit of a Transiting ‘Super-Earth’

November 30, 2016

The super-Earth K2-3d orbits a red dwarf star in the constellation Leo, some 150 light years from Earth. The outermost of three planets discovered in the system, K2-3d was found in the K2 phase of the Kepler mission (K2 Second Light), following the issues with the spacecraft’s reaction wheels that led to the end of […]

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Nearby Super-Earth at GJ 536

November 18, 2016

The discovery of a super-Earth of about 5 Earth masses orbiting the star GJ 536 is a helpful addition to our catalog of nearby red dwarf planets. About 33 light years out, GJ 536b orbits its primary at a distance of 0.06661 AU, an 8.7 day orbit that is too close to be in the […]

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Project Blue: Imaging Alpha Centauri Planets

November 15, 2016

We know about an extremely interesting planet around Proxima Centauri, and there are even plans afoot (Breakthrough Starshot) to get probes into the Alpha Centauri system later in this century. But last April, when Breakthrough Initiatives held a conference at Stanford to talk about this and numerous other matters, the question of what we could […]

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New Imaging of Protoplanetary Disks

November 10, 2016

Our knowledge of protoplanetary disks around young stars is deepening. This morning we have news of three recently examined disks, each with features of interest because we know so little about how such disks evolve. What we do know is that planets are spawned from the gas and dust we find within them, as we […]

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Unusual Planets in a Close Binary System

November 3, 2016

The three Alpha Centauri stars get more and more interesting as we begin to discover planets around them, and the hope of finding planets in the habitable zone around Centauri A or B continues to drive research. Alpha Centauri could be thought of as a close binary with a distant companion, since we’re still not […]

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Untangling the Effects of the ‘Big Whack’

November 1, 2016

Seasonal change on our planet is relatively moderate because the Earth has a small axial tilt. Just how that situation arose makes for interesting speculation, and a series of scientific papers that have been augmented by a new analysis in Nature from Matija Ćuk (SETI Institute) and Sarah Stewart (UC-Davis). Working with colleagues at Harvard […]

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New Clue to Gas Giant Formation

October 28, 2016

Just how do gas giant planets form? A team of researchers at ETH Zürich, working with both the University of Zürich and the University of Bern, has developed the most fine-grained and instructive computer simulations yet to help us understand the process. Using the Piz Daint supercomputer at the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS) in […]

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Are Planets Like Proxima b Water Worlds?

October 26, 2016

Those of us fascinated by dim red stars find these to be exhilarating days indeed. The buzz over Proxima b continues, as well it should, given the fact that this provocative planet orbits the nearest star. We also have detections like the three small planets around TRAPPIST-1, another red dwarf that is just under 40 […]

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A Microlensing Opportunity for Centauri A

October 25, 2016

First light for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) is scheduled for 2024, a useful fact given that a few years later, we may be able to use the instrument in a gravitational lensing opportunity involving Alpha Centauri. Specifically, Centauri A is expected to align with the star 2MASS 14392160-6049528, thought to be a red […]

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