Exoplanet Research At MIT (speakers: Drs. Diana Dragomir And Jenn Burt, MKI)

Wednesday January 17, 2018 1:00 pm
Marlar Lounge 37-252

Finding New Worlds with the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite
Dr. Diana Dragomir

Just 25 years ago, humanity did not know whether planets were common in the Universe or whether the Solar System was an anomaly. Then, in 1995 a giant planet was discovered in a 4-day orbit around a main sequence star. Since then, the number of exoplanets discovered every year in our Galaxy has been increasing exponentially. In a few months, the TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) space mission will launch, with the goal of finding the nearest exoplanet systems to us. The TESS science instruments will be operated from the MIT campus, and the satellite is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral on a SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket. TESS will focus on discovering Earth- and super-Earth-sized planets in the solar neighborhood, as well as exoplanets in the habitable zones of nearby stars, where conditions might be suitable for the existence life. Once discovered by TESS, these new exoplanets will be much more easily studied than those we already know of, thanks to their proximity.

Exoplanet Science in the era of TESS
Dr. Jenn Burt, MKI

The beginning of the TESS spacecraft’s science mission in mid 2018 promises the detection of thousands of exoplanets orbiting bright, nearby stars. These planets will provide astronomers with our best ever opportunity to mount extensive follow up observation efforts and try to understand the composition, distribution and evolution of planets in our galaxy. This talk will describe the anticipated TESS planet yield, its impact on the exoplanet field, and some of the follow up methods that astronomers will use to probe the composition of the planets’ rocky cores and/or gaseous outer atmospheres.

For a complete listing, see IAP 2018–MKI Activities