Planets Beyond the Solar System: The New Astronomical Revolution

Coordinators: Adam Burrows

In the 1990's, astronomers discovered the first planets outside the solar system. Since then, in what has become a torrent, more than 360 planets have been found, and the pace of discovery is quickening. Mostly giant planets similar to Jupiter, or ice giants similar to Neptune, these worlds occupy orbits that are often bizarre. More than 50 of these "new" planets are ~100 times closer to their parent stars than Jupiter is to the Sun (~20 times closer than is Earth). They are roasting in extreme proximity to stellar fires, and many are observed in transit across the stellar disk. Some are in wildly eccentric orbits, many reside in multiple planet systems, and some of the most recently discovered have masses and radii in the terrestrial (Earth) planet range. Clearly, these extrasolar systems of planets are very different from the straighforward extrapolations of the solar system mankind has been studying for millenia.

Excitingly, the study of exoplanets is emerging as a central focus of an increasing fraction of the world's astronomers and planetary scientists and is galvanizing a new generation to embark upon paths of discovery and characterization. This conference brings together scientists at the interface between stellar and planetary science who will report on the exciting recent developments and future directions at the frontiers of this exploding field.

Geared toward secondary school physics teachers in the U.S. KITP is eager to include teachers from population groups under-represented in physics.

Adam Burrows, Princeton University, coordinator of the conference


ALAN BOSS, Carnegie Institution of Washington, is a pioneer in the study of planet formation and will talk on the status of exoplanet research, its origins, and where it may be going. His lecture will expand upon his recent book "The Crowded Universe."

DEBRA FISCHER, Yale, is an original member of one of the most productive planet-discovering teams in the world. She will focus on techniques of planet discovery and what it is like to witness the birth of a new astronomy from the inside.

JAMES KASTING, Pennsylvania State University, is a pioneer in the study of Earth-like atmospheres, the atmosphere of the early Earth, and the habitability of exoplanets. He will address the concept of the "habitable" zone, a term with which he is most associated, and the evolution of the atmospheres of terrestrial planets, near and far.

ADAM BURGASSER, University of California, San Diego, is one of the foremost researchers in the study of brown dwarfs, objects cooler than stars, but warmer than planets. Brown dwarfs bridge the realms of the planets and the stars, and, as such, are stepping stones in the discovery and remote sensing of exoplanets. His lecture will address the integrated study of these dimmest, smallest, and coolest of substellar objects, their links with giant planets, and how to recognize their distinctive origins.