Exoplanets

An artist's impression of an exoplanet orbiting a red dwarf star. (Image Credit: NASA)

Also known as extrasolar planets, exoplanets are worlds outside of our Solar System. Astronomers have catalogued nearly 2,000 exoplanets in over a thousand solar systems since the first exoplanets were discovered in the early and mid-1990s. Due to their dimness compared to their host stars, their small size and light-years of distance, exoplanets are extremely difficult to observe and study. Telescopes have directly imaged only a score so far, and in little detail. Instead, the vast majority of exoplanets have been observed indirectly, most prolifically via the transit method, whereby a star's brightness dims ever so slightly as an orbiting exoplanet crosses it as seen from Earth. Astrophysicists study exoplanets to learn more about planetary formation and evolution scenarios and to draw comparisons between our Solar System and others. The question of the potential for other worlds to have conditions favorable for the development of extraterrestrial life is explored especially by the field of astrobiology. The discovery of Earth-like worlds remains a major goal of exoplanetary science. Most worlds on record are larger than Earth and have orbits much closer to their stars, which makes them easier to detect given the sensitivity of current instruments.

The Origin of Worlds: Astrophysicists Zero in on How Planets Form

Feb 24, 2016
Exoplanet

Three planetary formation experts — Kate Follette, Bruce Macintosh and Ruth Murray-Clay — joined a roundtable discussion on new ways of studying how planets form and whether they can explain the rise of our Solar System.

Crowdsourcing the Universe: How Citizen Scientists are Driving Discovery

Jan 13, 2016
Gravitational lenses

Legions of volunteer, 'citizen scientists' are training their eyes on the sky and sharing in the thrill of discovery. In this Kavli roundtable, Citizen science leader Chris Lintott joins Anupreeta More and Aprajita Verma of the Space Warps project to discuss the exciting endeavor.

Getting Up Close and Personal with an Earth-Sized Exoplanet

Nov 09, 2015
Transiting exoplanet

A newfound alien world orbiting a small, nearby star could be one of the first exoplanets scientists get to investigate in detail. Two of the astronomers who made the discovery—MKI's Zachory Berta-Thompson and Elisabeth Newton–discuss what they might encounter there with Rory Barnes from the University of Washington.

Spotlight Live: Searching for Alien Life with a "Super-Hubble" Space Telescope (Transcript)

Nov 05, 2015
Milky Way

On October 6, The Kavli Foundation hosted a Google+ Hangout to learn more about proposed High Definition Space Telescope, a kind of "Super Hubble" that could launch in the 2030s. We spoke with two of the proponents: Julianne Dalcanton of the University of Washington and Marc Postman of the Space Telescope Science Institute. This is a transcript of that discussion.

Spotlight Live: Searching for Alien Life with a "Super-Hubble" Space Telescope

Sep 17, 2015
Schematic of HDST

On October 6, The Kavli Foundation hosted a Google+ Hangout to learn more about proposed High Definition Space Telescope, a kind of "Super Hubble" that could launch in the 2030s. We spoke to Julianne Dalcanton of the University of Washington, who co-chaired the committee that put forward the proposal, as well as committee member Marc Postman of the Space Telescope Science Institute.

The Most Jupiter-Like Exoplanet Ever Seen: A Q&A with Bruce Macintosh

Aug 10, 2015
Artist's rendering of a Jupiter-like exoplanet

In an interview with The Kavli Foundation, Stanford astrophysicist Bruce Macintosh discusses how the discovery of a "young Jupiter" could help us understand the origins of planets.

Spotlight Live: Earth-like Planets in Other Solar Systems (Transcript)

Feb 11, 2015

During a recent Google Hangout, three astrophysicists discussed what we can learn about the planets in other solar systems, and answer viewers' questions about how close we are to discovering other Earths. Read a modified transcript of their discussion.

Spotlight Live: Microbes and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life

Jan 26, 2015
Exoplanet

On January 28, astrobiologists Jocelyne DiRuggiero and Christopher McKay discussed how microbiomes - the communities of microbes that inhabit different ecosystems - is driving the search for life elsewhere in the universe.

Microbiome & Astrobiology: How to Search for Life on Other Worlds

Jan 25, 2015

Armed with new knowledge about how microbes persist even in the Earth’s harshest environments, astrobiologists are planning the next missions to search for life in our solar system. Their bets are on microbes.

Spotlight Live: Earth-like Planets in Other Solar Systems (Transcript)

Nov 09, 2014

During a recent Google Hangout, three astrophysicists discussed what we can learn about the planets in other solar systems, and answer viewers' questions about how close we are to discovering other Earths. Read a modified transcript of their discussion.

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