Exoplanetary Science

Happy Anniversary α Centauri Bb?

October 16, 2014

A physicist and writer well-versed in the intricacies of the exoplanet hunt, Andrew LePage now turns his attention to the question of planets around Centauri B, and in particular the controversy over whether the highly publicized Centauri Bb does in fact exist. Today is the second anniversary of the discovery announcement, and we still have […]

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Mapping the Weather on WASP-43b

October 13, 2014

On Friday I mentioned transmission spectroscopy, the technique of analyzing the light of a parent star as it is filtered through a planetary atmosphere. We’ve used it on various ‘hot Jupiters’ before now — think of the much studied planet HD 209458b, where water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane have been detected and fierce upper […]

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A Planet Each for Stars in Binary System

October 10, 2014

The WASP Consortium (Wide Angle Search for Planets) has come up with an interesting find: Two new Jupiter-class worlds, one around each star in a binary star system. Both are ‘hot Jupiters,’ a class of planets that is susceptible to discovery by transit methods, as in this case, and radial velocity as well. Consisting of […]

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How Common Are Potential Habitable Worlds In Our Galaxy?

October 3, 2014

Centauri Dreams welcomes Ravi Kopparapu, a research associate in the Department of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University. He obtained his Ph.D in Physics from Louisiana State University, working with the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) collaboration. After a brief stint as a LIGO postdoc at Penn State, Ravi switched to the exoplanet field and started […]

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Myriad Worlds, Some with Clear Skies

September 30, 2014

Like most people, I’m highly interested in the hunt for habitable worlds, planets that could truly be called Earth 2.0. But sometimes we need to step back from the ‘habitable’ preoccupation and think about the extraordinary range of worlds we’ve been finding. I’m reminded of something Caleb Scharf says in his new book The Copernicus […]

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Habitable Moons: Background and Prospects

September 19, 2014

While I’m in Houston attending the 100 Year Starship Symposium (about which more next week), Andrew LePage has the floor. A physicist and freelance writer specializing in astronomy and the history of spaceflight, LePage will be joining us on a regular basis to provide the benefits of his considerable insight. Over the last 25 years, […]

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‘Hot Jupiters’: Explaining Spin-Orbit Misalignment

September 16, 2014

Bringing some order into the realm of ‘hot Jupiters’ is all to the good. How do these enormous worlds get so close to their star, having presumably formed much further out beyond the ‘snowline’ in their systems, and what effects do they have on the central star itself? And how do ‘hot Jupiter’ orbits evolve […]

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Emergence of the ‘Venus Zone’

September 15, 2014

In terms of habitability, it’s clear that getting a world too close to its star spells trouble. In the case of Gliese 581c, we had a planet that some thought would allow liquid water at the surface, but subsequent work tells us it’s simply too hot for life as we know it. With the recent […]

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Binary Stars: The Likelihood of Planets

September 10, 2014

In Greg Bear’s novel Queen of Angels (Gollancz, 1990), a robotic probe called AXIS (Automated eXplorer of Interstellar Space) has used antimatter propulsion to make a fifteen-year crossing to Alpha Centauri. The world’s various networks of the future begin to feast on reports of what it finds, like this one: “In the past few weeks, […]

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Red Dwarf Planets: Weeding Out the False Positives

September 3, 2014

For those of you who, like me, are fascinated with red dwarf stars and the prospects for life around them, I want to mention David Stevenson’s Under a Crimson Sun (Springer, 2013), with the caveat that although it’s on my reading list, I haven’t gotten to it yet. More about this title after I’ve gone […]

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