Small Planets, Small Stars

Tue, February 17, 2015

Colloquium image for website

Small stars and small planets are ubiquitous in the Galaxy. Planets smaller than ~2.5 Earth radii occur more frequently than any other type of planet; stars with masses below ~0.4 Solar masses are the most common type of star. Nonetheless we know much less about the formation, evolution, interior composition, atmospheric makeup, and population trends of M dwarf planetary systems than we do for planets orbiting Sunlike stars. I will review our work to shed further light on the matter, including my team’s large HST survey of transiting super-Earth atmospheres and a search for new, small planets transiting M dwarfs using NASA’s new "K2" mission. These projects provide the foundation necessary to enable many future exoplanet observations with Keck, JWST, and TMT.