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There Must Be a Better Way": Leveraging the Thousands of Known Systems to Shape Future Exoplanet Study

Event Details

Event Dates: 

Monday, January 22, 2018 - 4:00pm

Seminar Location: 

  • JILA Auditorium

Speaker Name(s): 

Sarah Ballard

Speaker Affiliation(s): 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Seminar Type/Subject

Scientific Seminar Type: 

  • Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences Seminar

Event Details & Abstract: 

The Solar System furnishes our most familiar planetary architecture: many planets, orbiting nearly coplanar to one another. However, a typical system of planets in the Milky Way orbits a much smaller M dwarf star. Small stars present a very different blueprint in key ways, compared to the conditions that nourished evolution of life on Earth. With ensemble studies of hundreds-to-thousands of exoplanets, I will describe the emerging links between planet formation from disks, orbital dynamics of planets, and the content and observability of planetary atmospheres. These quantities can be tied to observables even in discovery light curves, to enable judicious selection of follow-up targets from the ground and from space. After TESS exoplanet discoveries start in earnest, the studies of individual planets with large, space-based platforms comprise the clear next step toward understanding the hospitability of the Milky Way to life. Our success hinges upon leveraging the many thousands of planet discoveries in hand to determine how to use these precious and limited resources.