Title: Fantastic Worlds and How to Find Them
Lea Hirsch is a (very) recent graduate of the Berkeley Astronomy PhD program. She spent 6 years in the department, and has enjoyed an active role in Astronomy Nights for the past few years. Her scientific interests revolve around expolanets in binary star systems, including understanding how binary star companions may affect planet formation and evolution. She plans to begin a postdoctoral fellowship at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) at Stanford in a few weeks.
Since the first exoplanet discovery in 1995, astronomers have discovered and characterized more than 4000 planets orbiting stars other than our own Sun. In this talk, I will take us on a tour of these thousands of unique and fascinating worlds discovered in the past 2 decades. I will discuss both the common and the rare, from super-Earths to disintegrating planets, hot Jupiters, and circumbinary worlds. I will describe how the trends in these populations inform us about the process of planet formation and the evolution of planetary orbits. Along the way, I will describe the three most important techniques astronomers use to detect and characterize exoplanets: radial velocities, the transit method, and direct imaging. Finally, I will touch on what comes next: upcoming missions and what we hope to learn from them.