Institute of Astronomy

Exploring Planets Orbiting Nearby Stars

SpeakerTalk DateTalk Series
Courtney Dressing (Berkeley)20 May 2021Institute of Astronomy Colloquia


The NASA Kepler mission revealed that our Galaxy is teeming with planetary systems and that Earth-sized planets are common, but most of the planets detected by Kepler orbit stars that are too faint to permit detailed study. Excitingly, the NASA Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched in April 2018 and is finding hundreds of small planets orbiting stars that are much closer and brighter. Unlike the Kepler planets, the TESS planets are ideal targets for follow-up observations to determine their masses, compositions, and atmospheric properties. I will describe how in-depth analyses of the TESS planets are allowing us to probe the compositional diversity of small planets, investigate the formation of planetary systems, and set the stage for the next phase of exoplanet exploration: the quest for biosignatures in the atmospheres of strange new worlds.


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