An artist’s concept shows what the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system may look like, based on available data about the planets’ diameters, masses and distances from the host star, as of February 2018. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Early this spring, the organizers of an exoplanet science gathering at Cambridge University put out the word that they would host a major meeting this summer. Within a week, the 300 allotted slots had been filled by scientists aspiring and veteran, and within a short time the waiting list was up to 150 more.
Not the kind of reaction you might expect for a hardcore, topic-specific meeting, but exoplanet science is now in a phase of enormous growth and excitement. With so many discoveries already made and waiting to be made, so many new (and long-standing) questions to be worked on, so much data coming in to be analyzed and turned into findings, the field has something of a golden shine.
What’s more, it has more than a little of the feel of the Wild West.
Planet hunters Didier Queloz and Michel Mayor at the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla site. (L. Weinstein/Ciel et Espace Photos)
Didier Queloz, a professor now at Cambridge but in ...