MIT Astrophysics Colloquium 11/28/2023 — Jennifer Burt: Enhancing The Science Return Of NASA’s Exoplanet Missions With Ground-Based Radial Velocities

Tuesday November 28, 2023 4:00 pm

Title: Enhancing the Science Return of NASA’s Exoplanet Missions with Ground-Based Radial Velocities


The detection of exoplanets and the detailed characterization of their interior core mass fractions, and atmospheric compositions has become a cornerstone of observational astronomy. So much so that the 2020 astrophysics decadal survey identified the construction of the recently named ‘Habitable Worlds Observatory’, a flagship to directly image ~25 Earth analog planets around nearby Sun-like stars, as a top priority for US astronomy. That flagship will require two decades of formulation and construction, but in the meantime missions such as TESS, Plato, and Ariel will continue to advance our knowledge of individual exoplanet systems and provide a window in the demographics that underlie exoplanet populations throughout the Milky Way.

Accurate interpretation of the observations from each of these missions will require precise knowledge of the planet’s mass, obtained using ground-based radial velocity (RV) facilities. Mass is a planet’s most fundamental characteristic and is crucial for understanding its interior competition and atmospheric scale height. I will highlight how RV-derived masses tie into the science goals of these space-based missions and review the major hurdles that must be overcome to determine masses at two very different scales: First focusing on the characterization of 1000s of larger / shorter period planets for TESS and Ariel, and then pivoting to the Extreme Precision RVs necessary to detect the miniscule signals generated by the Earth-analogs that HWO and PLATO aim to detect.

Host: Sarah Millholland                                                                                                                                             via Zoom


  • Jennifer Burt, NASA

Event Contact

Nayanika Yellepeddi