Revealing the Atmospheres of Extrasolar Super-Earths
Eliza Kempton - University of Maryland
Super-Earths (planets with masses and sizes intermediate between the Earth and Neptune) do not exist in our Solar System, and models of planet formation and evolution are unable to uniquely predict their bulk compositions. Whether these planets are primarily rocky, gassy, or icy — and, if all three possibilities exist, how the dividing lines between sub-classes are sculpted — remains the subject of vigorous scientific discourse. The atmospheres of super-Earths are an astronomical observer’s window into the composition of these planets. I will review the current state of atmospheric modeling and observations of super-Earth exoplanets, focusing on the challenges of uniquely inferring their key physical properties. I will then turn to a forward-looking view of the coming decade with regard to upcoming observational facilities such as the James Webb Space Telescope and ground-based thirty-meter class telescopes, and how these facilities will revolutionize our understanding of super-Earths and their atmospheres.
Coffee and Donuts will be served at 2:30pm in 4054 McPherson Lab.