Exoplanetary Science

Further Thoughts on TRAPPIST-1

February 23, 2017

In yesterday’s news conference on the seven planets around TRAPPIST-1, exoplanet scientist Sara Seager (MIT) pointed to the discovery as accelerating our search for habitable worlds. “Goldilocks,” Seager said in a finely chosen turn of phrase, “has many sisters in this system.” I think she’s exactly correct, even though we don’t yet know if any […]

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Seven Planets around TRAPPIST-1

February 22, 2017

The red dwarf known as TRAPPIST-1 could not have produced a more interesting scenario. Today we learn that the star, some 40 light years out in the constellation Aquarius, hosts seven planets, all of which turn out to be comparable to the Earth in terms of size. Moreover, these worlds were discovered through the transit […]

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Exoplanet News Conference

February 22, 2017

You’ll want to see the news conference scheduled by NASA at 1300 EST (1800 UTC) today, an exoplanet finding of considerable interest to Centauri Dreams readers (I’ll have more on this later in the day). The event will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website. Links available here. Briefing participants: * Thomas Zurbuchen, […]

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Deep Space Projects for Citizen Scientists

February 16, 2017

I’m always interested in ways readers can dig directly into data from our telescopes, and this morning I can point to two. I’ll begin with the Lick Carnegie Exoplanet Survey, which has just released 60,949 precision Doppler velocities for 1,624 stars. The data draw on observations using HIRES (the High Resolution Echelle Spectrometer) on the […]

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Stellar Pulsations Induced by Planet

February 15, 2017

It’s no surprise that planets can affect the stars they orbit. We’ve used that fact for several decades now, relying on radial velocity studies that showed the movement of a star toward us and then away again as it was tugged on by the planet under investigation. But now we’re hearing about another kind of […]

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A KBO-like Object around another Star?

February 14, 2017

We’re beginning to find evidence of objects like those in the Kuiper Belt beyond our own solar system. In this case, the work involves a white dwarf whose atmosphere has been recently polluted by an infalling object, giving us valuable data on the object’s composition. The work involves the white dwarf WD 1425+540, whose atmosphere […]

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Tightening the Parameters for Centauri A and B

February 10, 2017

When it comes to the nearest stars, our focus of late has been on Proxima Centauri and its intriguing planet. But of course the work on Centauri A and B continues at a good clip. The prospects in this system are enticing — a G-class star like our own, a K-class dwarf likewise capable of […]

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A New Look at Habitability around Red Dwarf Stars

February 9, 2017

We’ve looked at the factors that are problematic for life around red dwarf stars for some time now, focusing on tidal lock (in which one side of the planet always faces the star) and stellar flare activity, which could dramatically affect life on the surface. A new paper from Vladimir Airapetian (NASA GSFC) and colleagues […]

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Wolf 1061 Unlikely to Host Habitable Worlds

January 26, 2017

A key way to learn more about a given exoplanet is to home in on the properties of its star. So argue Stephen Kane (San Francisco State University) and colleagues in a new paper slated for the Astrophysical Journal. The star in question is Wolf 1061 (V2306 Ophiuchi), an M-class red dwarf some 13.8 light […]

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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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