The Grand Tour: Exploring Planets Outside the Solar System
The past decade has marked a period of great progress in the quest to discover and characterize the properties of the planets outside our own solar system. Observations of transiting systems, in which the planet periodically passes in front of and then behind its star as seen from the earth, have given scientists new insight into the nature of these unusual worlds.
Discussing ongoing efforts to understand the diverse properties of extrasolar planets, including their compositions, temperatures, and climates, will be Heather Knutson, the world’s first exoplanet meterologist who was named by Popular Science magazine last year as one of the Brilliant Ten young scientists and engineers. She will explain how we are characterizing these alien planets using the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes and discuss future prospects for studying smaller and more earth-like planets with upcoming facilities such as the James Webb Space Telescope.
Knutson is an assistant professor of planetary science at Caltech. She received an undergraduate degree in physics from Johns Hopkins University and a doctorate in astronomy from Harvard. She also was a Miller Postdoctoral Fellow at UC-Berkeley and interned at the Space Telescope Science Institute.
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