Free Newsletters - Space - Defense - Environment - Energy - Solar - Nuclear
..
. 24/7 Space News .




EXO WORLDS
A Sky Full of Planets
by Ann Motrunich for Caltech News
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Nov 30, 2012


File image.

Think back to the last time you saw the Milky Way-that faint stripe of stars that thickens and brightens as you get farther from city lights. At least 200 billion stars fill the Milky Way, our galaxy. How many planets might orbit those stars? What would those worlds be like? Twenty years ago, it was anybody's guess.

In the 1990s, astronomers began to discover planets around other stars-so-called exoplanets. Since then, the confirmed count of exoplanets has skyrocketed to more than 850, with thousands of candidates awaiting follow-up. Astronomers now estimate that the stars in our Milky Way have an average of at least one planet each. (The next time you look up into the night sky, think about that.)

The sudden prospect of characterizing so many solar systems in our own galaxy has brought together two once-isolated camps: planetary scientists, who generally focus on the inside of our solar system, and astronomers, who mostly look beyond it.

Planetary scientists see an opportunity to learn about our solar system and its origins by putting it into the context of a huge ensemble of other solar systems, and astronomers have a keen interest in what planetary scientists might help them discover about planet formation on a galactic or even larger scale.

To those ends, nine Caltech astronomers and planetary scientists are forming a Center for Planetary Astronomy. Joining together in a single research center will help them maintain fruitful collaborations, collectively attract research funding and fellowships for young scholars, and recruit top students and postdoctoral scholars.

The nascent center's members bring complementary perspectives to the characterization of our newly discovered neighbors. Planetary science professor Geoff Blake, astronomy professor Lynn Hillenbrand, and senior research associate John Carpenter study planet-forming disks of gas and dust around young stars.

Mike Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor and professor of planetary astronomy, and Caltech's infamous Pluto-killer, studies fossil rubble from just such a disk-a fantastic array of thousands of planetesimals and chunks of rock and ice on the fringes of our solar system, known as the Kuiper belt, that yields clues to the primordial solar system.

The remaining scientists are focused more on the planets themselves. John Johnson, an assistant professor of planetary astronomy, focuses on the detection and characterization of exoplanets, searches for worlds like Earth, and investigates how stars' masses affect planet formation by studying the relationships between exoplanets and the very different types of stars that they orbit.

Heather Knutson, an assistant professor of planetary science, characterizes exoplanets' compositions, temperatures, atmospheres, and even their weather.

Yuk Yung, the Smits Family Professor of Planetary Science, studies the atmospheres of planets, and Dave Stevenson, the Marvin L. Goldberger Professor of Planetary Science, studies planetary interiors and how they evolve.

Greg Hallinan, an assistant professor of astronomy, is trying to detect radio signals from exoplanets, which would indicate the presence of magnetic fields that could be a signature of habitability.

The center's members are excited about its potential contribution to the major discoveries that are sure to come in this field.

"The unique combination of Caltech's top-ranked astronomical facilities, astronomy program, and planetary science program will allow us to access the deep and broad knowledge about planets and planetary systems that only comes from such a joint endeavor," says Brown.

Says Knutson, "I was trained as an astronomer, but what I do is planetary science. Caltech is one of the few places where we have great conversations between the two groups. And Caltech's resources, in terms of telescopes, give us the opportunity to move quickly and think big."

.


Related Links
California Institute of Technology
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





EXO WORLDS
Do missing Jupiters mean massive comet belts?
London, UK (SPX) Nov 29, 2012
Using ESA's Herschel space observatory, astronomers have discovered vast belts of comets surrounding two nearby planetary systems known to host nothing larger than Earth-to-Neptune-mass worlds. The comet reservoirs could have delivered life-giving oceans to the innermost planets. The scientists publish their work in papers in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and Astronomy and As ... read more


EXO WORLDS
China's Chang'e-3 to land on moon next year

Moon crater yields impact clues

Study: Moon basin formed by giant impact

NASA's LADEE Spacecraft Gets Final Science Instrument Installed

EXO WORLDS
Opportunity Gets To Work On Interesting Rock

Regional Dust Storm Dissipating

One Year After Launch, Curiosity Rover Busy on Mars

Fostering Curiosity: Mars Express relays rocky images

EXO WORLDS
Why Study Plants in Space?

Who's Killing the Space Program?

Fly me to the universe

UK Secures Billion Pound Package For Space Investment

EXO WORLDS
Mr Xi in Space

China plans manned space launch in 2013: state media

China to launch manned spacecraft

Tiangong 1 Parked And Waiting As Shenzhou 10 Mission Prep Continues

EXO WORLDS
Spacewalks on agenda for new space crew

NASA, Roscosmos Assign Veteran Crew to Yearlong Space Station Mission

Three ISS crew return to Earth in Russian capsule

Station Crew Off Duty After Undocking

EXO WORLDS
Japan Schedules Radar Satellite Launch

Arianespace ready for next Soyuz and Ariane missions

Who will challenge Dragon? Dragon spaceship postponed until March

South Korean rocket launch suspended

EXO WORLDS
Astronomers report startling find on planet formation

A Sky Full of Planets

Low-mass planets make good neighbours for debris discs

Dust Grains Highlight the Path to Planet Formation

EXO WORLDS
The music of the silks

NASA Technologists Test 'Game-Changing' Data-Processing Technology

UTC Aerospace Systems Selects Headwall Hyperspectral Imaging Sensor For SYERS-2 Program

Samsung launches new Internet-connected camera




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement