Exoplanetary Science

The Transition from Rocky to Non-Rocky Planets

November 14, 2014

As I decompress from the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop (and review my notes for next week’s report), I have the pleasure of bringing you Andrew LePage’s incisive essay into a key exoplanet question. Are some of the planets now considered potentially habitable actually unlikely to support life? Recent work gives us some hard numbers on […]

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Replenishing a Proto-Planetary Disk

October 31, 2014

Because building an economically sustainable infrastructure in the Solar System is crucial for the development of interstellar flight, I was interested to learn about a game called High Frontier, which looks to combine O’Neill habitats with a steady expansion of our species outward. Have a look at the Kickstarter campaign page if the idea of […]

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Exocomets around Beta Pictoris

October 24, 2014

Imaging planets around other stars is challenging enough because their light is overwhelmed by the proximity of the parent star. But what about comets? We may not be able to see them directly, but minute variations in light can mark their passage across the stellar disk. Nearly 500 comets have been detected around the star […]

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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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