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STScI Astrobiology Lecture Series

Planets in a Bottle: Exploring Planetary Atmospheres in a Lab

Presented by: Sarah Horst (Johns Hopkins University, Dept of Earth and Planetary Sciences)
Category: Science Colloquia   Duration: 1 hour and 15 minutes   Broadcast date: May 04, 2018
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From exoplanets, with their surprising lack of spectral features, to Titan and its characteristic haze layer, numerous planetary atmospheres may possess photochemically produced particles of "haze". With few exceptions, we lack strong observational constraints (in situ or remote sensing) on the size, shape, density, and composition of these particles. Photochemical models, which can generally explain the observed abundances of smaller, gas phase molecules, are not well suited for investigations of much larger, solid phase particles. Laboratory investigations of haze formation in planetary atmospheres therefore play a key role in improving our understanding of the formation and composition of haze particles. I will discuss a series of experiments aimed at improving our understanding of the physical and chemical properties of planetary atmospheric hazes on Titan, Pluto, super-Earths, and mini-Neptunes.