Big Apple Colloquium at NYU: The Compositions of Small Exoplanets

The NASA Kepler Mission has demonstrated that planets with radii larger than Earth yet smaller than Neptune are common around Sun-like stars. Although Kepler has determined the physical sizes of hundreds of such planets, we know virtually nothing about their masses and, by inference, their compositions. HARPS-N is an ultra-stable fiber-fed high-resolution spectrograph optimized for the measurement of very precise radial velocities. Using HARPS-N we have measured to high precision the masses of several of these so-called super-Earths. I will report on the resulting constraints on the planetary compositions, and address the transition from rocky planets, composed of rock and iron, and Neptune-like worlds, which have accreted and retained an envelope of primordial H/He gas. I will then explain the future role of the NASA Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), scheduled for launch in 2017.

Please note that you have to add your name to the list of attendees in advance, and bring an ID to the venue, in order to attend this event. Information on how to do this has been emailed to astro-events.

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