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Systemic - Characterizing Extrasolar Planetary Systems

March of Progress

30 Dec 2015, 18:44 UTC
March of Progress
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

For many years, and irregardless of the audience, one could profitably start one’s talk on extrasolar planets with an impressive plot. On the y-axis was the log of the planetary mass (or if one was feeling particularly rigorous, log[Msin(i)]), and the x-axis charted the year of discovery. The lower envelope of the points on the graph traced out a perfect Moore’s Law trajectory that intersected one Earth mass sometime around 2011 or 2012. (And rather exhiliratingly, Gordon Moore himself was actually sitting in the audience at one such talk, back in 2008.)
But now, that graph just makes me feel old, like uncovering a sheaf of transparencies for overhead projectors detailing the search for as-yet undiscovered brown dwarfs.
By contrast, a document that is fully-up-to-date is the new Kepler Catalog Paper, which was posted to arXiv last week. This article describes the latest, uniformly processed catalog of the full Q1-Q17 Kepler data release, and records 8,826 objects of interest and 4,696 planet candidates. This plot, in particular, is impressive:

For over a decade, transits were reliably the next big thing. At the risk of veering dangerously close to nostalgia trip territory, I recall all the hard-won heat and noise surrounding ...

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