Two articles in Science News April 28 and May 12, 2018, focus on what we have learned about the 5000 possible exoplanets Kepler has found. Now we await results from the new space telescope TESS, launched April 18. It will focus on “…nearby, bright stars that will be easy for other telescopes to further investigate later… 2000,000 stars within a few hundred lights years [of Earth]… while observing 85% of our sky.” Its findings of stars’ brightness and their planets’ mass (hence their composition and possible atmosphere) will suggest where NASA’s James
Webb Space Telescope should be pointed in 2020. It should be able to sniff exoplanetatmospheres and detect molecules possibly produced by life.
An article by Lisa Grossman in Science News (page 28) summarizes what we have learned from Kepler’s work confirming 3717 exoplanets (as of April 12, 2018). She describes the role a parent star plays in how its orbiting planets are built. A sun’s composition can suggest that its
planets may have oxygen or plate tectonics.
High-metal stars , especially large ones with close-in planets, probably form more planets. A planet’s size and mass (determined by gravity-produced wobble) determine its density, which suggests either solid rock or ...