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Looking At Super-Earth Exoplanets Through Their Atmospheres
November 7, 201611:30 am – 12:30 pm (CDT)

Looking At Super-Earth Exoplanets Through Their Atmospheres


Diana Dragomir (MIT)



Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics & Astronomy

College Station, Texas 77843

Event Details

The Kepler mission has revealed that super-Earths (planets with radii between 1 and 4 R_Earth) are the most common class of planets in the galaxy, though none are known to exist in our own Solar System and little is known about how they form. These planets can theoretically have a wide range of compositions which we are just beginning to explore observationally. The relative faintness of the exoplanet host stars in the Kepler field means that atmospheric characterization with currently available instruments is extremely challenging for the majority of known super-Earths. However, a handful of transiting superEarths are within reach of existing facilities. We have pointed the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes toward these systems in an effort to paint a thorough picture of their atmospheres, with some help from ground-based facilities. By probing the atmospheres of the few accessible super-Earths we know of now, we will inform the direction to be taken by atmospheric studies of the many more small planets that will be discovered by the TESS mission. I will review the current state of knowledge for these super-Earths, and discuss how transmission and emission spectroscopy allows us to constrain their composition and formation history, as well as explore the transition region between terrestrial planets and miniature gas giants.

Video Recording

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