Exoplanetary Science

Where to Look for Rocky Planets

December 9, 2015

If you were trying to identify the kind of star that should produce Earth-like planets, you’d think the task would be straightforward. Our theories of planet formation focus on a circumstellar disk around a young star out of which planets form, and we’ve already gathered evidence that gas giant worlds are more likely to form […]

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Kepler: A New Look at False Positives

December 3, 2015

Oh to be in Hawaii for the Extreme Solar Systems III conference rather than simply following events on Twitter! The exoplanet community’s choice of venues for these gatherings is hard to beat, the first of them, in 2007, having occurred on Santorini, a storied island in the Aegean Sea southeast of the Greek mainland, with […]

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A Thoroughly Disrupted Solar System

December 2, 2015

A quick follow-up on our most recent discussion of KIC 8462852 (and thanks to all for the continuing high level of discussion in the comments) because today’s topic touches on a bit of the same ground. Centauri Dreams regular Harry Ray was first to notice a paper from Eva Bodman and Alice Quillen (University of […]

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Habitable Planets in the Same System

December 1, 2015

Learning that our own Solar System has a configuration that is only one of many possible in the universe leads to a certain intellectual exhilaration. We can, for example, begin to ponder the problems of space travel and even interstellar missions within a new context. Are there planetary configurations that would produce a more serious […]

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Huge Flares from a Tiny Star

November 24, 2015

Just a few days ago we looked at evidence that Kepler-438b, thought in some circles to be a possibly habitable world, is likely kept out of that category by flare activity and coronal mass ejections from the parent star. These may well have stripped the planet’s atmosphere entirely (see A Kepler-438b Caveat – and a […]

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Directly Imaging a Young ‘Jupiter’

November 19, 2015

Centauri Dreams continues to follow the fortunes of the Gemini Planet Imager with great interest, and I thank Horatio Trobinson for a recent note reminding me of the latest news from researchers at the Gemini South installation in Chile. The project organized as the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey is a three-year effort designed to […]

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A Relatively Nearby Earth-Sized Planet

November 11, 2015

Given my abiding interest in red dwarf stars and the planets that circle them, I always keep an eye on what’s happening with the MEarth project. Two arrays of robotically controlled telescopes are involved in MEarth (pronounced ‘mirth’), one at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory on Mt. Hopkins (AZ), the other a cluster of eight […]

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Alpha Centauri Planet Reconsidered

November 9, 2015

Finding a habitable world around any one of the three Alpha Centauri stars would be huge. If the closest of all stellar systems offered a blue and green target with an atmosphere showing biosignatures, interest in finding a way to get there would be intense. Draw in the general public and there is a good […]

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A 3D Look at GJ 1214b

November 5, 2015

An old friend used to chide me about the space program, asking good-naturedly enough why it mattered to travel nine years to get to a place like Pluto (this was not long after the New Horizons launch). ‘Just another rock,’ he would say. ‘Why go all that way to look at just another rock?’ Although […]

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Exoplanetology Beyond Kepler

November 3, 2015

Useful synergies continue to emerge among our instruments as we ponder the future of exoplanet studies. Consider the European Space Agency’s PLATO mission (PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars). Operating from the L2 Lagrangian point, PLATO will use 34 telescopes and cameras on a field of view that includes a million stars, using transit photometry, […]

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