Exoplanetary Science

Proxima Centauri Planet

August 24, 2016

A planet in the habitable zone around Proxima Centauri? The prospect dazzles, but then, I’ve been thinking about just that kind of planet for most of my life. Proxima Centauri is, after all, the closest star to our own, about 15000 AU from the primary Alpha Centauri stars (though thought to be moving with that […]

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Evening Landscape with Exomoons

August 12, 2016

I often work out my thoughts on the topics we discuss here while taking long walks. I try to get in five miles a day but more often it’s about three. In any case, these long, reflective walks identify me as the neighborhood eccentric, an identity that is confirmed by the things I write about. […]

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Kepler-80: Analysis of a Compact System

July 22, 2016

It’s been a week for unusual planetary systems, and I’ll cap it off with Kepler-80, a star about 1100 light years away that features five planets in extraordinarily tight orbits. Such systems are now being referred to as STIPs (Systems with Tightly-spaced Planets), a nod to our apparently imperishable drive to create acronyms. Whatever we […]

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‘Warm Jupiters’ and Nearby Worlds

July 21, 2016

Where exactly do ‘hot Jupiters’ come from? I usually see explanations involving planetary migration for Jupiter-class objects with tight orbital periods of 10 days or less, the thinking being that such planets are too close to their host stars to have accumulated a Jovian-style gaseous envelope there. Migration explains their placement, with gas giants forming […]

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A Deeper Look at TRAPPIST-1

July 20, 2016

Small red stars are drawing increased attention as we continue to discover interesting planets around them. The past two days we’ve looked at the four worlds around K2-72, a red dwarf about 225 light years out in the constellation Aquarius. That two of these worlds have at least the potential for liquid water on the […]

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Ravi Kopparapu: Looking at K2-72

July 19, 2016

Is the K2-72 system, discussed yesterday as part of a recent exoplanet announcement from Ian Crossfield and colleagues, as intriguing as it looks? Ravi Kopparapu has some thoughts on the matter. Dr. Kopparapu’s work on exoplanet habitability is well known to Centauri Dreams readers — he offered an overview in these pages called How Common […]

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Intriguing System in New Exoplanet Haul

July 18, 2016

Today’s announcement of the confirmation of over 100 planets using K2 data reminds me of how much has gone into making K2 a success. You’ll recall that K2 emerged when the Kepler spacecraft lost function in two of its four reaction wheels. Three of these were needed for pointing accuracy, but ingenious pointing techniques and […]

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Viewing a Protoplanetary Snowline

July 13, 2016

A team led by Lucas Cieza (Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile) has produced the first image directly showing the water snowline in a protoplanetary disk, using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). It’s fascinating to actually see a mechanism we’ve long discussed in these pages when analyzing exoplanetary systems (or for that matter, our own). […]

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WISE 0855: Probing a Brown Dwarf’s Atmosphere

July 11, 2016

A brown dwarf as a ‘quieter’ version of Jupiter? That’s more or less the picture offered in a new paper on WISE 0855 from Andrew Skemer (UC-Santa Cruz) and colleagues. Here we’re working in the Solar System’s close neighborhood — WISE 0855 is a scant 7.2 light years from Earth — and we’re observing an […]

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Directly Imaged Planet in a Triple Star System

July 8, 2016

Into the annals of oddball orbits now comes HD 131399Ab, a planet whose wide orbit inside a triple-star system is unlike anything we’ve yet seen. 320 light years from Earth in the constellation Centaurus, this is a gas giant of about four Jupiter masses that was discovered through direct imaging. The discovery was made with […]

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