Caption: H. A. Sawyer loading plates into the Harvard 16” Metcalf Doublet telescope. Picture from http://hea-www.harvard.edu/DASCH/telescopes.php Paper Title: 100-year DASCH Light Curves of Kepler Planet-Candidate Host Stars Authors: S. Tang et al First Author’s Affiliation: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA; Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, Santa Barbara, CA; California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA [...]
Detailed atmospheric models reveal that planets can be habitable much closer to their host star than previously thought, provided they have desert-like climates. This expanded definition of the habitable zone increases the number of planets that could support life by a factor of 2-3.
As we discover exoplanets in droves and the first hints of habitable worlds emerge, astronomers are starting to look to the next step: the search for life on those worlds.
In our search for life on other planets, we begin by determining which exoplanets orbit in the habitable zone of their star. But where exactly is the habitable zone for a given star? The authors of this paper update a previous planetary climate model to predict where you should looking for your next extrasolar vacation home.
The holy grail for exoplanet science would be to find an inhabited planet. Not just habitable, but actually inhabited. But where are we most likely to find those planets? Only around Sun-like stars, or could life thrive around other types of stars? Could evolved stars like white dwarfs or neutron stars harbor life? Could brown dwarfs, the so-called failed stars, have inhabited planets?
Astronomers recently announced the discovery of a short period Earth-mass planet in the Alpha Centauri system. Could Earth-mass planets exist in the habitable zones of binary stars?
If Kepler does not obtain additional financial support, it will “close its eyes forever.” – Natalie Batalha.
Venus transits the Sun, from the frame of the Earth, about twice every century, separated by eight years. The last one happened in 2004, and another is happening in June 2012. Observing the transmission spectrum during the 2012 transit—and comparing it to measured transmission spectra of the Earth, taken during lunar eclipses—will tell us how hard it will be to distinguish two planets that look identical in mass and radius, but have extremely different atmospheric properties.
George Lucas dreamed of a planet with two suns. Now that Kepler scientists have found such a planet, the question arises: can it support life?
I’m a fourth year undergraduate from the University of Southampton, UK, studying for my masters at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics. With my summer reading completed, and a new exoplanet waiting to be discovered, I stepped off the plane into Boston Logan Int. this September and eagerly exchanged a drizzly English summer for a beautiful New English Autumn.