Exoplanetary Science

A Possible Planet Hidden in the Data

January 19, 2017

One of the great joys of science is taking something that seems beyond reach and figuring out a way to do it. We can use a coronagraph, for example, to screen out much of the light of a star to see planets around it, but coronagraphs can only do so much, as planets too near […]

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A New Look at ‘Exocomets’

January 12, 2017

Moving groups are collections of stars that share a common origin, useful to us because we can study a group of stars that are all close to each other in age. Among these, the Beta Pictoris moving group is turning out to be quite productive for the study of planet formation. These are young stars, […]

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Upgraded Search for Alpha Centauri Planets

January 10, 2017

Breakthrough Starshot, the research and engineering effort to lay the groundwork for the launch of nanocraft to Alpha Centauri within a generation, is now investing in an attempt to learn a great deal more about possible planets around these stars. We already know about Proxima b, the highly interesting world orbiting the red dwarf in […]

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Garnet World: Stellar Composition & Planetary Outcomes

January 9, 2017

What effect does the composition of a star have on the planets that form around it? Enough of one that we need to take it into account as we assess exoplanets in terms of astrobiology. So says a study that was presented at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Texas last week, looking at ninety […]

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Orbital Determination for Proxima Centauri

December 27, 2016

Let’s talk this morning about the relationship of Proxima Centauri to nearby Centauri A and B, because it’s an important issue in our investigations of Proxima b, not to mention the evolution of the entire system. Have a look at the image below, which shows Proxima Centauri’s orbit as determined by Pierre Kervella (CNRS/Universidad de […]

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Learning More about Outer System Planets

December 19, 2016

What kind of planets are most common in the outer reaches of a planetary system? It’s a tricky question because most of the data we’ve gathered on exoplanets has to do with the inner regions. Both transit and radial velocity studies work best with large planets near their stars. But a new gravitational microlensing study […]

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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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