Exoplanetary Science

Giant Planet Clues to a Debris Disk Anomaly

March 17, 2017

A massive young planet on the borderline between gas giant and brown dwarf is telling us a bit more about planet formation in general, and circumstellar disk dynamics in particular. Known as HD 106906b, the world is 11 times the mass of Jupiter and no more than 13 million years old. Its position 650 AU […]

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TRAPPIST-1h: Drawing on K2 Data

March 14, 2017

The data recently made available from Campaign 12 of K2 (the Kepler spacecraft’s two-reaction wheel mission) is already paying off in the form of information about the outermost planet in the TRAPPIST-1 system. Campaign 12 (described in Kepler Data on TRAPPIST-1 Coming Online) began on December 15 of 2016 and ran until March 4 of […]

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HD 219134: A Nearby System with Multiple Transits

March 10, 2017

While we’ve all had our eyes fixed on TRAPPIST-1 (amid the still lingering excitement of the discovery of Proxima Centauri b), news about another stellar neighbor has caused only a faint stir. But what’s happening around HD 219134 (Gliese 892) is noteworthy, and it’s interesting to see that Michaël Gillon (University of Liège – Belgium) […]

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Kepler Data on TRAPPIST-1 Coming Online

March 9, 2017

K2 Campaign 12 is an observational window that comes at the right time. Operating as the K2 mission, the Kepler spacecraft collected data from December 15, 2016 to March 4 of this year on the TRAPPIST-1 system. With seven planets, at least six of them likely to be rocky worlds, TRAPPIST-1 is suddenly high on […]

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Biofluorescence: A Potential Biosignature for M-Dwarf Planets

March 8, 2017

The seven planets circling the star TRAPPIST-1 have been lionized in the media, and understandably so, given that more than one have the potential for habitability. But of course M-dwarfs call up the inevitable problems associated with such tiny stars. Habitable planets must orbit close to the star, with the probability of tidal lock and […]

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‘Dust Traps’ and Planet Formation

March 2, 2017

Are we homing in on a ‘missing link’ in our theories of planet formation? Perhaps so, judging from the work of researchers at Swinburne University of Technology, Lyon University and St. Andrews University. The work does not challenge a central principle in current thinking, that planets form out of disks of gas and dust grains […]

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Planet Formation inside a Circumbinary ‘Snowline’

March 1, 2017

The binary system SDSS 1557, about 1000 light years from Earth, was thought to be a single white dwarf star until detailed measurements revealed that the brighter star was being gravitationally influenced by a hither unseen brown dwarf. And that, in turn, has given us an intriguing look at possible planetary formation around both members […]

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A Volcanic View of the Habitable Zone

February 28, 2017

Our understanding of habitable zones is a work in progress, but the detection of multiple planets with potentially water-bearing surfaces around TRAPPIST-1 is heartening. Today we examine the prospect of extending the habitable zone further out from the host star than previously thought possible. The idea is found in new work by Ramses Ramirez and […]

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The (Potentially) Habitable Worlds of TRAPPIST-1

February 27, 2017

When the news about the seven planets of TRAPPIST-1 broke, I immediately wondered what Andrew LePage’s take on habitability would be. A physicist and writer with numerous online essays and a host of articles in magazines like Scientific American and Sky & Telescope, LePage is also a specialist in the processing and analysis of remote […]

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SPECULOOS: Nearby Red Dwarfs

February 24, 2017

Let’s turn the clock back a bit on the TRAPPIST-1 discoveries with a reminder of Hubble work on this system announced last July. A team led by Julien de Wit (MIT) used the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 to look for atmospheres on TRAPPIST-1b and 1c, two of the three planets then known […]

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