Exoplanetary Science

An Exoplanet Changing Over Time

February 23, 2016

Keep your eye on a program called the Hubble Cloud Atlas. This is a collaboration between fourteen exoplanet researchers around the globe that is intent on creating images of exoplanets using the Hubble Space Telescope. But while we’ve been able to directly image a small number of planets before now, the Cloud Atlas project brings […]

Read the full article →

WFIRST: Moving Closer to a Mission

February 19, 2016

We learned on Wednesday that the Agency Program Management Council, which works under the aegis of NASA, has made the decision to proceed with the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope. WFIRST is the next step in major astrophysical observatories after the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018, an instrument that will work […]

Read the full article →

Light, Dry Atmosphere of a ‘Super-Earth’

February 16, 2016

We’re probing the atmospheres of exoplanets both from the Earth and from space. Transmission spectroscopy allows us to look at the spectra of starlight at various wavelengths as a transiting planet passes first in front of its host star, and then moves behind it. Now we have news of a successful detection of gases in […]

Read the full article →

Inside Rocky Exoplanets

February 9, 2016

We’ve gone from discovering the presence of exoplanets to studying their atmospheres by analyzing the spectra produced when a planet transits in front of its star. We’re even in the early stages of deducing weather patterns on some distant worlds. Now we’re looking at probing the inside of planets to learn whether their internal structure […]

Read the full article →

Planet in Widest Orbit Yet Discovered

January 26, 2016

Free floating planets — planets without any star — are exotic things, presumably thrown out of their original solar system by gravitational interactions with other worlds. But the line between such wanderers and bound planets isn’t always clear. A case in point is the object 2MASS J2126, found in an infrared sky survey and at […]

Read the full article →

Proxima Centauri & the Imagination

January 25, 2016

My essay Intensifying the Proxima Centauri Planet Hunt is now available on the European Southern Observatory’s Pale Red Dot site. My intent was to give background on earlier searches for planets around the nearest star, leading up to today’s efforts, which include the Pale Red Dot work using HARPS, the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet […]

Read the full article →

Viewing Pluto Over Time

January 20, 2016

Knowing that the data from New Horizons continues to arrive gives me a warm feeling about the months ahead. Below we have the highest resolution color image of one of the two potential cryovolcanoes found on the surface during the Pluto flyby last summer. This is Wright Mons, some 150 kilometers across and 4 kilometers […]

Read the full article →

Pale Red Dot: Proxima Centauri Campaign Begins

January 18, 2016

A new observational campaign for Proxima Centauri, coordinated by Guillem Anglada-Escudé (Queen Mary University, London), is about to begin, an effort operating under the name Pale Red Dot. You’ll recall Dr. Anglada-Escudé’s name from his essay Doppler Worlds and M-Dwarf Planets, which ran here in the spring of last year, as well as from Centauri […]

Read the full article →

Solid Results from ‘Second Light’

January 11, 2016

If they did nothing else for us, space missions might be worth the cost purely for their role in tuning up human ingenuity. Think of rescues like Galileo, where the Jupiter-bound mission lost the use of its high-gain antenna and experienced numerous data recorder issues, yet still managed to return priceless data. Mariner 10 overcame […]

Read the full article →

HD 7449Ab: Choreography of a Planetary Dance

January 7, 2016

Given this site’s predilections, it’s natural to think of Centauri A and B whenever the topic of planets around close binary stars comes up. But systems with somewhat similar configurations can produce equally interesting results. Take what we’re finding around the G-class star HD 7449, some 127 light years from our Sun. In 2011, a […]

Read the full article →