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Special Presentations

Characterizing Exoplanets: Future Missions and Forward Models

Presented by: Tyler Robinson ((UC Santa Cruz))
Category: Special Interest   Duration: 1 hour and 10 minutes   Broadcast date: February 20, 2017
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Atmospheres are the lens through which we understand other worlds. Molecules in planetary atmospheres carve absorption features into reflection, emission, and transmission spectra, allowing us to characterize a world’s composition and thermal state. Atmospheric condensates have a strong influence on the albedos of planets and, thus, are critical for determining the energy balance of a world. Atmospheres can even control the evolution of worlds, either through their role as the valve through which giant planets and brown dwarfs cool over billions of years, or by extinguishing a terrestrial planet’s habitability via a runaway greenhouse. Thus, it is particularly exciting that we are entering into (what will likely be) a long era of exoplanet atmospheric characterization. Near-future instruments and missions, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, will gather atmospheric observations of Jovian to super-Earth planets. The new addition of an exoplanet direct imaging component to the WFIRST mission will enable a broader survey of the atmospheres of nearby planetary systems like our own. However, our ability to understand these exoplanet atmospheres will depend critically on the quality of our physical models, so that collaboration between Solar System planetary scientists and astronomers will be critical. This presentation will discuss my current research programs in comparative planetology, with an emphasis on the exoplanet atmospheric processes that will be constrained by future missions. Importantly, I will highlight ideas and projects that can help make the next two decades of exoplanet science as amazing as its first two decades.