A highly-energetic coronal mass ejection coming off the sun in 2012 was captured here by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. Increasingly, the study of exoplanets and their potential habitability is focusing on the nature and dynamics of host stars. (NASA/SDO/AIA)
It is hardly surprising that in this burgeoning exoplanet era of ours, those hitherto unknown planets get most of the attention when it comes to exo-solar systems. What are the planet masses? Their orbits? The chemical makeup of their atmospheres? Their potential capacity to hold liquid surface water and thereby become “habitable.”
Less frequently highlighted in this exoplanet scenario are the host stars around which the planets orbit. We’ve known for a long time, after all, that there are billions and billions of stars out there, and have only known for sure that there are planets for 20 years. So the stars hosting exoplanets have largely played a background role focused on detection: Does the light curve of a star show the tiny dips that tell of a transiting planet? Does a star “wobble” every so slightly due to the gravitational forces or orbiting planets.
Gradually, however, that backseat role for stars in the exoplanet story is starting to change, especially ...