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Systemic - Characterizing Extrasolar Planetary Systems


14 Sep 2010, 06:37 UTC
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

…are often risky, but can be illuminating nonetheless.
The astronomy decadal report, which was issued a few weeks ago, set forth three big-picture goals for the next decade: (1) searching for the first stars, galaxies, and black holes; (2) seeking nearby habitable planets; and (3) advancing understanding of the fundamental physics of the universe.
It’s looking quite likely that goal number two will be the first to get substantially met. For quite a while now, a plot of year of discovery vs. the known planetary Msin(i)’s has provided grist for speculation that the first announcement of an Earthlike Msin(i) will occur this year…

In all likelihood, the surface of the first Earth-mass object detected in orbit around a sun-like star will be better suited to oven-cleaning than life as we know it. An interesting question, then, is: when will the first potentially habitable planet be detected? As readers know, such a world will very likely be detected via either transit (MEarth, Warm Spitzer or Kepler) or by the radial velocity technique (HD 40307, Alpha Cen B, etc. etc.).
Earlier this year, I struck up an e-mail conversation with Sam Arbesman, a Research Fellow at Harvard who studies computational approaches to ...

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