From Puff-Ball Neptunes to Earth-sized Rocky planets: Exoplanets in the Kepler Era

Sat, January 16, 2016


Since the discovery of the first exoplanet around a Sun-like star in 1995, ground-based surveys and space-based telescopes have discovered thousands of planets outside of our Solar System. The properties of exoplanets range far beyond what we see in the Solar System. From Jupiter-sized planets nearly touching their stars, to gaseous mini-Neptunes, the variety of discoveries continues to surprise astronomers. As the overall number of exoplanets continues to grow, Howard is focusing on the masses and densities of planets only a few times larger than the size of the Earth. The point at which planets transition from solid planets, such as the Earth and Venus, to gaseous planets that resemble Neptune and Uranus is of special interest. Knowing the transition region, in terms of planet size, will help to determine the occurrence of planets nearly the size of the Earth.