For millenia, people have wondered whether other stars have planets, and whether those planets might harbor life. Within the last few decades, it has become possible to make progress on these timeless questions. Exoplanetary science — the study of planets around other stars — is one of the newest and most rapidly growing branches of astrophysics.
The MIT exoplanet community takes a comprehensive approach, by developing new space missions, pursuing ground-based observations, and advancing the theory of exoplanets. A particular focus is the study of transiting planets: those that eclipse their parent stars. Professor Sara Seager pioneered the theory of exoplanet atmospheres and leads several innovative space missions to find and study Earth-like planets. Dr. George Ricker is Principal Investigator of TESS, a NASA mission to find transiting planets around the nearest and brightest stars in the sky. TESS was launched on April 18, 2018 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket out of Cape Canaveral. See MIT TESS for additional information. Professor Sarah Millholland studies the orbital architectures and interiors/atmospheres of exoplanets using orbital dynamics, theory, and statistics. Professor Kerri Cahoy (Aero/Astro) develops new technologies for direct imaging of exoplanetary systems. Biweekly meetings bring together our group of students, postdocs, faculty and research scientists who share a common interest in exploring other worlds.