Cool Worlds Lab Awarded NASA Grant to Characterize Eccentricities of Hundreds of M-Dwarf Exoplanets

September 27, 2022

The Cool Worlds Lab, led by Assoc. Prof. David Kipping, has been awarded a NASA XRP grant to advance a new research project studying exoplanet eccentricities. The project, entitled "A Homogeneously Derived Map of Exoplanet Eccentricity for Low-Mass Stars”, plans to produce the largest homogeneous catalog of exoplanet eccentricities for the most common type of star in the Universe - M and K-dwarfs. Eccentricity describes how non-circular a planetary orbit is - zero being a perfect circle and increasing as the shape becomes more elliptical. Generally planets are thought to form from disks with close to circular orbits, but gravitational interactions between planets in the same system excite the eccentricities to higher values. In this way, eccentricity is a fossil of the past dynamical history of a given system - a rare glimpse into how these systems came to be. Low mass stars are particularly mysterious in this regard, with only recent NASA TESS detections providing a sufficiently large sample to finally probe this crucial population. Cool Worlds is excited to dive into this data-intensive project and reveal new insights about planet evolution.

Image: Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser