Applied Physics/Physics Colloquium: Extrasolar Planets

Extrasolar Planets
Tuesday, February 6, 2018 - 4:30pm
Hewlett 201
Prof. Bruce Macintosh (Stanford)
Abstract / Description: 

Over the past two decades, thousands of planets have been discovered orbiting nearby stars, and our perspective on the universe has changed. We now know planets are not rare. We also know planets are diverse - with our biased measurements, a vast range of planetary types and system architectures have been discovered, from systems containing hot Jupiter-like planets orbiting incredibly close to their star, to densely-packed systems of "super-Earth" planets in dynamically complex configurations. Most known systems are radically different than our own; to what extent this is a measurement bias remains unclear, and the question of the frequency of habitable planets is not yet settled. I will review key discoveries over the past decade, by both the Kepler mission and ground-based facilities, and provide perspective on the uncertainties. I will also focus on results from the Gemini Planet Imager, which has produced high-SNR images and spectra of giant planets orbiting far (10-100 AU) from young (10-300 million year) stars. Finally, I will review prospects from the near future (the James Webb Space Telescope) to potential Earth-characterizing missions.