Institute of Astronomy

The New Era of Exoplanetary Characterization

SpeakerTalk DateTalk Series
Nikku Madhusudhan (IoA)7 November 2013Institute of Astronomy Colloquia

Abstract

Exoplanetary discoveries in the past two decades have unveiled an astonishing diversity in the physical characteristics of exoplanetary systems, including their orbital properties, masses, radii, equilibrium temperatures, and stellar hosts. Exoplanets known today range from gas-giants to nearly Earth-size planets, and some even in the habitable zones of their host stars. Recent advances in exoplanet observations and theoretical methods are now leading to unprecedented constraints on the physicochemical properties of exoplanetary atmospheres, interiors, and their formation conditions. I will discuss the present and future of this new era of exoplanetary characterization. I will present some of the latest constraints on atmospheric chemical compositions and temperature structures of exoplanets, made possible by state-of-the-art observations from space and ground, and their implications for atmospheric processes and formation conditions of exoplanets. I will also discuss constraints emerging on the interiors and formation environments of super-Earths, whose interior compositions span a wide gamut - from water worlds with thick volatile envelopes to super-Mercuries, lava planets, and carbon planets - thereby testing the limits of our understanding of planetary mineralogies and their equations of state under exotic astrophysical conditions. The exciting future prospects of exoplanetary characterization will be discussed in the light of major current, upcoming, and future observational facilities, along with several open questions of fundamental nature in the field.

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