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Astronomy Colloquium - "Exoplanet Atmospheres at High-Resolution"

Event Type
Seminar/Symposium
Sponsor
Department of Astronomy
Location
Astronomy 134
Date
Oct 28, 2014   3:45 pm  
Speaker
Jayne Birkby, NASA Sagan Fellow, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Originating Calendar
Astronomy Colloquium Speaker Calendar

The nearest habitable exoplanet is unlikely to transit its host star. If we are to remotely determine its prospects for habitability, we must develop techniques beyond the transit method to sniff out its atmospheric properties. Fortunately, the population of hot giant exoplanets has provided the perfect training ground for doing this. I will present the first detections of water and carbon monoxide in non-transiting exoplanet atmospheres, as well as the measurement of the length of a day on a directly imaged exoplanet. These discoveries are connected by the use of ground-based, very high-resolution spectroscopy, and I will advocate that this novel technique will be a front-runner in the hunt for biomarkers in Earth-like planets in the era of the extremely large telescopes. I will also discuss the challenges we face in exoplanet characterization, particularly with respect to the presence of clouds and the influence of the host star. Finally, I will show how measurements of an exoplanet’s atmospheric composition and rotation period have the potential to reveal exactly how and precisely where the planet formed in its protoplanetary disk.

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