Exoplanetary Science

Unusual Planets in a Close Binary System

November 3, 2016

The three Alpha Centauri stars get more and more interesting as we begin to discover planets around them, and the hope of finding planets in the habitable zone around Centauri A or B continues to drive research. Alpha Centauri could be thought of as a close binary with a distant companion, since we’re still not […]

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Untangling the Effects of the ‘Big Whack’

November 1, 2016

Seasonal change on our planet is relatively moderate because the Earth has a small axial tilt. Just how that situation arose makes for interesting speculation, and a series of scientific papers that have been augmented by a new analysis in Nature from Matija Ćuk (SETI Institute) and Sarah Stewart (UC-Davis). Working with colleagues at Harvard […]

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New Clue to Gas Giant Formation

October 28, 2016

Just how do gas giant planets form? A team of researchers at ETH Zürich, working with both the University of Zürich and the University of Bern, has developed the most fine-grained and instructive computer simulations yet to help us understand the process. Using the Piz Daint supercomputer at the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS) in […]

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Are Planets Like Proxima b Water Worlds?

October 26, 2016

Those of us fascinated by dim red stars find these to be exhilarating days indeed. The buzz over Proxima b continues, as well it should, given the fact that this provocative planet orbits the nearest star. We also have detections like the three small planets around TRAPPIST-1, another red dwarf that is just under 40 […]

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A Microlensing Opportunity for Centauri A

October 25, 2016

First light for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) is scheduled for 2024, a useful fact given that a few years later, we may be able to use the instrument in a gravitational lensing opportunity involving Alpha Centauri. Specifically, Centauri A is expected to align with the star 2MASS 14392160-6049528, thought to be a red […]

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Red Dwarfs: Oldest Known Circumstellar Disk

October 24, 2016

Determining the age of a star is not easy, but one way of proceeding with at least some degree of confidence is to identify the star as a member of a stellar association. Here we’re talking about a loose cluster of stars of a common origin. Over time, the stars have begun to separate, but […]

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Detecting Long-Period Planets & Stellar Companions

October 6, 2016

Spotting planets a long way from their stars is no easy proposition when you’re using radial velocity methods. The idea is to track the minute movement of the star as it is affected by an orbiting planet, which shows up as a Doppler shift in the data. What we’re actually seeing is the star and […]

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System Evolution: Delving into Brown Dwarf Disks

October 4, 2016

We’ve seen circumstellar disks around numerous stars, significant because it is from such disks that planets are formed, and we would like to know a good deal more about how this process works. Now we have word of planet-forming disks around several low-mass objects that fit into the brown dwarf range, and one small star […]

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Circumbinary Planet Found in Microlensing Data

September 23, 2016

A circumbinary planet is one that orbits two stars, and to date we haven’t found many of them. Word of a new detection comes from an event observed back in 2007 during a microlensing study called OGLE — Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment. OGLE is a Polish undertaking designed to study dark matter using gravitational microlensing, […]

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Stormy ‘Space Weather’ for M-dwarf Planets?

September 22, 2016

Proxima Centauri b, that highly interesting world around the nearest star, is about 0.05 AU out from its primary. The figure leaps out to anyone new to red dwarf stars, because it’s so very close to the star itself, well within the orbit of Mercury in our own system. But these are small, dim stars […]

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