Analyzing the atmosphere of Super Earth GJ1214b


Wednesday, June 08 2011 - 12:00 pm, PDT
Eliza Kempton
Dept of Astronomy and Astrophysics, UC Santa Cruz

Astronomers currently know of over 500 planets orbiting distant stars beyond the confines of our solar system. Of these 500 "extrasolar" planets, most are large gas-rich planets, similar to Jupiter or Saturn. However, more recently, due to improvements in discovery techniques and instrumentation, astronomers have started to discover much smaller extrasolar planets, which are only slightly larger (or more massive) than the Earth. This new class of planets, which have masses of 1-10 times that of the Earth, have come to be known as super-Earths. Super-Earths are particularly interesting because planets in this mass range are not present in our solar system, and they therefore represent a fundamentally new class of planets for astronomers to study. Recently, the first observations of a super-Earth's atmosphere were obtained. They reveal a unique planetary atmosphere that may bear some similarities to objects in our solar system but requires further study.
In this talk Dr. Kempton will begin by presenting an overview of extrasolar planet research, focusing in on what we know about super-Earths. She will then move on to describing what we know about extrasolar planet atmospheres. She will finish by revealing the first observations of the atmosphere of a super-Earth, and she will explain some of the challenges to interpreting these observations.

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