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STScI Astrobiology Lecture Series

Characterization of Exoplanetary Atmospheres and Interiors

Presented by: Nikku (Madhu) Madhusudhan  (Yale University)
Category: Science Colloquia   Duration: 1 hour and 30 minutes   Broadcast date: October 04, 2013
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Recent advances in exoplanet observations and theoretical methods are leading to unprecedented constraints on the physicochemical properties of exoplanetary atmospheres, interiors, and their formation conditions. In this talk, I will present some of the latest results in this emerging frontier. I will present constraints on the atmospheric chemical compositions and temperature profiles for a variety of exoplanets based on infrared observations from a wide range of facilities including HST, Spitzer, and ground-based telescopes. I will discuss how these constraints are being used to understand various equilibrium and non-equilibrium processes in exoplanetary atmospheres, to develop new classification schemes for exoplanets, and to understand the conditions of their formation and subsequent evolution. I will also present the latest constraints emerging on the atmospheres, interior structures, and formation environments of super-Earths, whose interior compositions span a wide gamut - from water worlds with thick volatile envelopes to super-Mercuries, lava planets, and carbon planets - thereby testing the limits of our understanding of planetary mineralogies and their equations of state under exotic astrophysical conditions. The exciting future prospects of characterizing exoplanetary atmospheres, interiors, and formation conditions, using current, upcoming, and future observational facilities will be discussed, along with several open questions of fundamental nature in the field.