Physics and Mathematics Professors Named Simons Investigators

Anton Kapustin (PhD '97), the Earle C. Anthony Professor of Theoretical Physics and Mathematics, and Vladimir Markovic, the John D. MacArthur Professor of Mathematics, have been named Simons Investigators. These appointments are given annually to "support outstanding scientists in their most productive years, when they are establishing creative new research directions," according to the Simons Foundation, which grants the awards. Investigators receive $100,000 annually for five years.

Kapustin studies mathematical physics, particularly dualities—relations between two superficially very different models of quantum fields, which help scientists study the behavior of strongly interacting elementary particles.

"Recently, my research has focused on the classification of exotic states of quantum matter," Kapustin says. "Such states have been proposed to be useful for building a quantum computer. Surprisingly, it turns out that the classification problem can be attacked using methods of topology, a branch of geometry which studies properties of geometric shapes which are not affected by continuous deformations."

Markovic focuses on various aspects of low-dimensional geometry, which is the study of shapes and forms that certain topological spaces can take.

"The main themes of my research are manifolds—a particular kind of topological space—and more generally groups, and their geometric, topological and dynamical properties," says Markovic. "Beside this, I have been very interested in certain partial differential equations and geometric flows including harmonic mappings and heat flows."

"I am excited to be named Simons Investigator," he adds. "This award will enable me to have more time to focus on my research, learn new fields, and test and develop my mathematical ideas."

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Anton Kapustin and Vladimir Markovic will each be awarded $100,000 annually for five years as part of the fellowship.

Caltech Scientists Discuss Jupiter's Mysteries

After nearly five years and 1.8 billion miles of space travel, NASA's Juno mission will arrive at Jupiter on July 4, 2016. Managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the spacecraft will orbit Jupiter for 20 months, completing 37 orbits, and will then spiral down into the planet at the end of its mission in 2018. Three Caltech professors—Andrew Ingersoll, professor of planetary science; Dave Stevenson, Marvin L. Goldberger Professor of Planetary Science; and Ed Stone, David Morrisroe Professor of Physics and vice provost for special projects—are on the mission team. None are strangers to the giant planets—collectively, they have more than 100 years of experience studying the outer solar system. We spoke with them about Jupiter, the Juno mission, and the future of solar system exploration.

What is your specific role on the Juno mission?

Dave Stevenson: I lead the interiors working group, which has responsibility for interpreting the Juno data that tell us what is going on inside Jupiter: Does it have a core? What does the structure of Jupiter tell us about how it formed? Where is the magnetic field produced? How far down do the strong winds extend? The relevant measurements Juno makes are the gravity field, magnetic field, and water content.

Andrew Ingersoll: I am the head of the atmospheres working group and a member of two instrument teams—for the microwave radiometer (MWR) and the camera (JunoCam).

Ed Stone: I am a senior advisor for science and management.

What is special about Jupiter? What scientific questions are you hoping to answer with Juno?

DS: Jupiter makes up most of the planetary mass in our solar system. It probably formed before the other planets and controlled the architecture of our planetary system through its gravity. The way in which it formed will help us understand how planets in general form. And last but not least, it may even have controlled the delivery of water to Earth and thus affected the environment of our home planet.

AI: Jupiter is the largest planet and it comes closest to having the same proportion of chemical elements (hydrogen, helium, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, etcetera) as the sun. Also, it is like a fluid dynamics laboratory where storms last for decades and the planet's rotation steers the winds into multiple jet streams.

With Juno, we would like to determine the average water abundance of the deep atmosphere. This question bears on the oxygen-to-hydrogen ratio on Jupiter compared to the ratio on the sun. The ratio is fundamental to how the elements were distributed through the early solar system and how Earth got its oceans. Additionally, we are trying to map how water and ammonia vary with latitude. This question bears on the weather below the visible clouds—a region we know little about. Jupiter has a very photogenic atmosphere, so we know a lot about the weather at the tops of the clouds. The unique phenomena there may derive their properties from the weather at deeper levels.

ES: Jupiter's magnetosphere—the region occupied by Jupiter's magnetic field—is the largest object in the solar system. Its radius is larger than the sun! The magnetic field is responsible for Jupiter's aurorae—glowing regions in the north and south polar regions caused by ions and electrons spiraling down along the magnetic field lines. Juno's orbit will be north-to-south, taking it over the poles and through the aurorae. We are interested in details about the aurorae—what kinds of particles are spiraling down into the atmosphere? What is the up-close structure of this huge magnetic field?

What other missions have you worked on? How do they compare?

DS: I'm also involved in Cassini, which has been spectacularly successful, especially for the satellites of Saturn, less so for Saturn itself. But in the coming year or so, Cassini will do some of the same things for Saturn that Juno will do for Jupiter by orbiting inside the rings and obtaining very precise gravity and magnetic-field data.

ES: I am the project scientist for Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, both of which conducted a flyby of Jupiter. They made videos of the winds, flew near the largest moons, determined the large-scale structure of the magnetosphere, and observed the aurorae from a distance. Juno is in a distinctly different orbit, and its electronics are protected from radiation so it can get closer to the planet. The Galileo mission was able to closely study the moons, but it was in an equatorial orbit. Juno is probing the inner frontier of the Jovian system and we expect many discoveries.

AI: I have worked on every mission to the giant planets—the Pioneers, Voyagers, Galileo, Cassini, and now Juno. I am amazed at the richness of the outer solar system. It seems that every time we go there with new instruments or visit a new part of it, we discover things that surprise us—things that our Earth-centric science couldn't predict.

What is the future of giant planet exploration?

DS: Even though Cassini may be a success for Saturn, it will not answer one of the key questions that Juno should answer for Jupiter: How much water is there? For Saturn, that will probably require a probe—like the Galileo probe but going deeper into the atmosphere. A mission to an ice giant (Uranus or Neptune) is perhaps even more important and is high on the priority list for NASA. These kinds of planets are now known to be common in the universe and we know remarkably little about what goes on inside them.

AI: The immediate focus is on Jupiter and its moon Europa. The European Space Agency has the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) and NASA has the Europa Orbiter. After that, Enceladus and Titan—two of Saturn's moons—will be ripe for intensive exploration. The common theme is liquid water beneath the icy crusts of these outer planet satellites. With organic compounds and chemical energy sources, the icy moons extend the range of habitability outward from Earth orbit. That doesn't mean they are inhabited, but means that many of the necessary conditions for life are present.

ES: The next major NASA mission will be to Jupiter and its moon Europa. We know from Galileo that there is a liquid water ocean beneath its icy crust. We know that on Earth, wherever there's liquid water, there's microbial life. Europa is certainly a place we want to explore.

 

JPL manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Juno is part of NASA's New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, manages JPL for NASA.

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Scientists Discuss Jupiter's Mysteries
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In anticipation of Juno's arrival at Jupiter on July 4, three Caltech faculty share thoughts on the planet, the mission, and the solar system.

Caltech Trustee and Alumnus Simon "Si" Ramo Passes Away

Alumnus and life member of the Board of Trustees Simon "Si" Ramo (PhD '36), a founding giant of the aerospace industry and chief architect of the nation's intercontinental ballistic missile system, passed away on June 27, 2016. He was 103.

First appointed to the Caltech Board of Trustees in 1964, Ramo was elected a Life Member of the board on May 7, 1985, in which capacity he served Caltech until the time of his death. During his active service on the board, Ramo served as vice chair and chair of the Nominating Committee, and as a member of the Investment Committee and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Committee. 

"Si lived the Caltech dream. He was a scientist, entrepreneur, educator, advisor, trustee, benefactor, and friend," says David L. Lee (PhD '74), chair of the Caltech Board of Trustees. "His life was dedicated to an unflinching search for solutions to a wide array of challenges. He will be missed by us all."

"Si Ramo was not only a great leader, but also an important mentor to many. Among thousands of others, he had an important influence on my life," says Thomas Everhart, president emeritus and professor of electrical engineering and applied physics, emeritus, at Caltech. "The nation, Caltech, and the many other organizations that Dr. Ramo provided insight, leadership, and personal support to, have lost a great friend. We are all richer for having known him."

Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on May 7, 1913, Ramo earned a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from the University of Utah 1933. In 1936, at age 23, Ramo was awarded a PhD, magna cum laude, from Caltech with dual degrees in physics and electrical engineering.

Ramo joined the General Electric Research Laboratories in Schenectady, New York, in 1936 and accumulated 25 patents before turning 30. He was a pioneer in microwave transmission and detection equipment and was the first researcher in the U.S. to produce microwave pulses at the kilowatt level. He developed GE's electron microscope, published the first book on microwave electricity, and authored a book on electromagnetic fields and waves that for 50 years was a leading text in universities worldwide.

In 1946, Ramo joined Hughes Aircraft Company in Culver City, California, where, as vice president for operations, he developed radar, navigation, computer, and other electronics systems for aircraft. He also led the development of their Falcon air-to-air guided missiles, used in the Korean War.

Along with engineer Dean Wooldridge, Ramo left Hughes in 1953 to found the Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation. The company was responsible for developing Atlas, Titan, and Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)—with Ramo serving as the chief scientist from 1954–58 of the U.S. ICBM program—and produced other defense and research missiles, including those that carried exploratory probes into space in the late 1950s and 1960s. Ramo-Wooldridge merged with Thompson Products in 1958 to become Thompson Ramo-Wooldridge, Inc. (later shortened to TRW).

At TRW, Ramo served vice chairman of the board of directors and chairman of the board's executive committee before retiring. He created TRW's Space Technology Laboratories, which won NASA's first spacecraft contract and built the Pioneer 1 probe, which, on October 11, 1958, became the first spacecraft launched by NASA. Under Ramo's guidance, TRW was a pioneering developer of missile systems and spacecraft, including the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 probes to Jupiter and the outer solar system; instruments for the Viking 1 and Viking 2 martian landers; and NASA's Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and Chandra X-ray Observatory, among other projects.

Ramo also cofounded the Bunker-Ramo Corporation, which produced the first version of the National Association of Securities Dealers' Automated Quotations (NASDAQ) system.

He served on numerous corporate and university boards and in government advisory roles that included positions on the National Science Board, the White House Council on Energy R&D, the Advisory Council to the Secretary of Commerce, and the Advisory Council to the Secretary of State for Science and Foreign Affairs. Ramo was chairman of Gerald Ford's President's Advisory Committee on Science and Technology and was Science Adviser to the President of the Republic of China under Ronald Reagan.

The recipient of numerous honors and honorary degrees, Ramo was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983, the National Medal of Science in 1979, and the Founders Medal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in 1980. He was named a Distinguished Alumnus of Caltech in 2012.

He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and a founding member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). The namesake of the NAE's Simon Ramo Founders Award—established in 1965 and renamed in Ramo's honor in 2013 on the occasion of his 100th birthday—he was also the first recipient of the Academy's Arthur M. Bueche Award for statesmanship in national science and technology policy.  

In December 2013, Ramo was awarded patent 8,606,170 for a computer-based learning invention, making him, at 100 years old, the oldest person to ever receive a U.S. patent. He was also the author of many books, on topics ranging from microwaves and communication electronics, to management, to tennis.

Virginia Ramo, his wife of seven decades, preceded him in death in 2009. He is survived by sons James and Alan. 

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Alumnus and life member of the Board of Trustees Simon "Si" Ramo (PhD '36), a founding giant of the aerospace industry, passed away on June 27, 2016.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Center for Student Services 360 (Workshop Space) – Center for Student Services

CTLO's Summer Short Course for Faculty: (Re)Designing Your Class

2016 Distinguished Alumnus: Neil Gehrels (PhD '82, Physics)

The 2016 Distinguished Alumni Awards were presented on Saturday, May 21, during the 79th annual Seminar Day. Each week, the Caltech Alumni Association will share a story about a recipient.

Every day or so, unseen by your eyes, a bright burst of light explodes in the sky. These bursts shine in gamma rays, the most energetic kind of light that's way beyond the visible part of the spectrum. Among the most explosive and violent events in the universe, these gamma-ray bursts produce as much energy in a few seconds as the sun will during its entire 10-billion-year life.  

And for decades, Neil Gehrels has been a pioneer in understanding these bursts and in exploring the gamma-ray universe. He's helped lead teams of researchers on multiple projects and missions, including as the principal investigator of NASA's Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Mission, which has solved long-standing mysteries about the powerful blasts. 

Read the full story on the Caltech Alumni Association website

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For decades, Gehrels has been a pioneer in understanding and exploring the gamma-ray universe.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016

4th Annual Caltech Teaching Conference DRAFT SCHEDULE JUST ADDED!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Noyes 147 (J. Holmes Sturdivant Lecture Hall) – Arthur Amos Noyes Laboratory of Chemical Physics

Teaching Statement Workshop

Gravitational Waves Detected from Second Pair of Colliding Black Holes

The LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo collaboration identify a second gravitational wave event in the data from Advanced LIGO detectors

On December 26, 2015 at 03:38:53 UTC, scientists observed gravitational waves—ripples in the fabric of spacetime—for the second time.

The gravitational waves were detected by both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, USA.

The LIGO Observatories are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and were conceived, built, and are operated by Caltech and MIT. The discovery, accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters, was made by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (which includes the GEO Collaboration and the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy) and the Virgo Collaboration using data from the two LIGO detectors.

Gravitational waves carry information about their origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained, and physicists have concluded that these gravitational waves were produced during the final moments of the merger of two black holes—14 and 8 times the mass of the sun—to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole that is 21 times the mass of the sun.

"It is very significant that these black holes were much less massive than those observed in the first detection," says Gabriela Gonzalez, LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) spokesperson and professor of physics and astronomy at Louisiana State University. "Because of their lighter masses compared to the first detection, they spent more time—about one second—in the sensitive band of the detectors. It is a promising start to mapping the populations of black holes in our universe."

During the merger, which occurred approximately 1.4 billion years ago, a quantity of energy roughly equivalent to the mass of the sun was converted into gravitational waves. The detected signal comes from the last 27 orbits of the black holes before their merger. Based on the arrival time of the signals—with the Livingston detector measuring the waves 1.1 milliseconds before the Hanford detector—the position of the source in the sky can be roughly determined.

"In the near future, Virgo, the European interferometer, will join a growing network of gravitational wave detectors, which work together with ground-based telescopes that follow-up on the signals," notes Fulvio Ricci, the Virgo Collaboration spokesperson, a physicist at Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) and professor at Sapienza University of Rome. "The three interferometers together will permit a far better localization in the sky of the signals."

The first detection of gravitational waves, announced on February 11, 2016, confirmed a major prediction of Albert Einstein's 1915 general theory of relativity, and marked the beginning of the new field of gravitational-wave astronomy.

The second discovery "has truly put the 'O' for Observatory in LIGO," says Caltech's Albert Lazzarini, deputy director of the LIGO Laboratory. "With detections of two strong events in the four months of our first observing run, we can begin to make predictions about how often we might be hearing gravitational waves in the future. LIGO is bringing us a new way to observe some of the darkest yet most energetic events in our universe."

"We are starting to get a glimpse of the kind of new astrophysical information that can only come from gravitational wave detectors," says MIT's David Shoemaker, who led the Advanced LIGO detector construction program.

Both discoveries were made possible by the enhanced capabilities of Advanced LIGO, a major upgrade that increases the sensitivity of the instruments compared to the first generation LIGO detectors, enabling a large increase in the volume of the universe probed.

"With the advent of Advanced LIGO, we anticipated researchers would eventually succeed at detecting unexpected phenomena, but these two detections thus far have surpassed our expectations," says NSF Director France A. Córdova. "NSF's 40-year investment in this foundational research is already yielding new information about the nature of the dark universe."

Advanced LIGO's next data-taking run will begin this fall. By then, further improvements in detector sensitivity are expected to allow LIGO to reach as much as 1.5 to 2 times more of the volume of the universe. The Virgo detector is expected to join in the latter half of the upcoming observing run.

LIGO research is carried out by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC), a group of more than 1,000 scientists from universities around the United States and in 14 other countries. More than 90 universities and research institutes in the LSC develop detector technology and analyze data; approximately 250 students are strong contributing members of the collaboration. The LSC detector network includes the LIGO interferometers and the GEO600 detector.

Virgo research is carried out by the Virgo Collaboration, consisting of more than 250 physicists and engineers belonging to 19 different European research groups: 6 from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France; 8 from the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) in Italy; 2 in The Netherlands with Nikhef; the MTA Wigner RCP in Hungary; the POLGRAW group in Poland and the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO), the laboratory hosting the Virgo detector near Pisa in Italy.

The NSF provides most of the financial support for Advanced LIGO. Funding organizations in Germany (Max Planck Society), the U.K. (Science and Technology Facilities Council, STFC) and Australia (Australian Research Council) also have made significant commitments to the project.

Several of the key technologies that made Advanced LIGO so much more sensitive have been developed and tested by the German UK GEO collaboration. Significant computer resources have been contributed by the AEI Hannover Atlas Cluster, the LIGO Laboratory, Syracuse University, the ARCCA cluster at Cardiff University, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the Open Science Grid. Several universities designed, built, and tested key components and techniques for Advanced LIGO: The Australian National University, the University of Adelaide, the University of Western Australia, the University of Florida, Stanford University, Columbia University in the City of New York, and Louisiana State University. The GEO team includes scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute, AEI), Leibniz Universität Hannover, along with partners at the University of Glasgow, Cardiff University, the University of Birmingham, other universities in the United Kingdom and Germany, and the University of the Balearic Islands in Spain.

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Live Webcast: LIGO, Virgo Scientists to Discuss Continued Search for Gravitational Waves

The latest research in the effort to detect gravitational waves will be discussed in a press briefing at the 228th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in San Diego, California. The public can view the briefing during the live webcast, scheduled to begin at 10:15 am Pacific Daylight Time on Wednesday, June 15, 2016. The panelists for the briefing are Caltech's David Reitze, executive director of LIGO; Gabriela González, LIGO Scientific Collaboration spokesperson, from Louisiana State University; and Fulvio Ricci, Virgo spokesperson, from the University of Rome Sapienza and the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare in Rome.

The first detection of gravitational waves, announced on February 11, 2016, confirmed a major prediction of Albert Einstein's 1915 general theory of relativity, and marked the beginning of the new field of gravitational-wave astronomy.

LIGO, a system of two identical detectors located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, was constructed to detect the tiny vibrations from passing gravitational waves, was conceived and built by Caltech and MIT with funding from the National Science Foundation and contributions from other U.S. and international partners.

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Newborn Exoplanet Discovered Around Young Star

Planet formation is a complex and tumultuous process that remains shrouded in mystery. Astronomers have discovered more than 3,000 exoplanets—planets orbiting stars other than our Sun—however, nearly all are middle-aged, with ages of a billion years or more. For astronomers, attempting to understand the life cycles of planetary systems using existing examples is like trying to learn how people grow from babies to children to teenagers, by only studying adults. Now, a team of Caltech-led researchers have discovered the youngest fully-formed exoplanet ever detected. The planet, K2-33b, at 5 to 10 million years old, is still in its infancy.

The first signals of the planet's existence were measured by NASA's Kepler space telescope during its K2 mission. The telescope detected a periodic dimming in the light emitted by the planet's host star—called K2-33—that hinted at the existence of an orbiting planet. Observations from the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii validated that the dimming was indeed caused by a planet, later named K2-33b. A paper detailing the finding appears in the June 20 advance online issue of the journal Nature.

"At 4.5 billion years old, the Earth is a middle-aged planet—about 45 in human-years," says Trevor David, the first author on the paper and a graduate student working with professor of astronomy Lynne Hillenbrand. "By comparison, the planet K2-33b would be an infant of only a few weeks old."

"This discovery is a remarkable milestone in exoplanet science," says Erik Petigura, a postdoctoral scholar in planetary science and a coauthor on the paper. "The newborn planet K2-33b will help us understand how planets form, which is important for understanding the processes that led to the formation of the earth and eventually the origin of life."

When stars form, they are encircled by dense regions of gas and dust, called protoplanetary disks, from which planets form. By the time a young star is a few million years old, this disk has largely dissipated and planet formation is mostly complete.

The star orbited by K2-33b has a small amount of disk material left, indicated by observations from NASA's Spitzer space telescope, demonstrating that it is in the final stages of dissipating. K2-33b was previously identified as a planet candidate in a survey of stars done with the K2 mission, the extended mission phase of the Kepler Space Telescope.

"Astronomers know that star formation has just completed in this region, called Upper Scorpius, and roughly a quarter of the stars still have bright protoplanetary disks," David says. "The remainder of stars in the region do not have such disks, so we reasoned that planet formation must be nearly complete for these stars, and that there would be a good chance of finding young exoplanets around them."

K2-33b, like many other exoplanets, was detected due to the periodic dimming in the central star's light as the planet passes in front of it. By studying the frequency of dips in the star's light and measuring by how much the light dimmed, the team was able to determine the size and orbital period of the planet. K2-33b is "a remarkable world," according to Petigura. The exoplanet, which is about six times the size of Earth, or about 50 percent larger than Neptune, makes a complete orbit around its host star in about five days. This implies that it is 20 times closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun. 

K2-33b is a large planet like the gas giants in our solar system. In our solar system these giant planets are all far from the Sun. As it turns out, the proximity of the giant planet K2-33b to its star is not too out of the ordinary for planets in our galaxy—many have been discovered "close in," often completing an orbit around their parent star in weeks or even days. The explanation for this is that large planets can be formed far from their star and migrate inward over time. The position of K2-33b so close to its parent star at such an early age implies that if migration occurred, it must have occurred quickly. Alternatively, the planet could be evidence against the migration theory, suggesting that giant planets can in fact form close in to their stars.

"Discovering and studying K2-33b required using several of the most powerful astronomical instruments available, both in space and on Earth," says Sasha Hinkley, now a senior lecturer at Exeter University and co-author on the study. As a NASA Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow at Caltech, Hinkley acquired data from the Keck telescope which was later used to help confirm the existence of the planet.

K2-33b is fully formed, but it may still evolve over time. The next step is to measure the planet's mass and determine its density. These measurements will offer insights into the planet's fate later in life—whether it will stay roughly the same size or if it will cool and contract.

"In the last 20 years, we have learned that nature can produce a staggering diversity of planets—from planets that orbit two stars to planets that complete a full orbit every few hours," Petigura says. "We have much to learn, and K2-33b is giving us new clues."

The findings are detailed in a paper titled, "A Neptune-sized transiting planet closely orbiting a 5–10 million-year-old star." The work was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and included data funded by NASA. Professor Lynne Hillenbrand, staff scientist David Ciardi, and senior faculty associate in astronomy Charles Beichman were additional Caltech coauthors on this paper.

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Newborn Exoplanet Discovered
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Newborn Exoplanet Discovered Around Young Star
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The discovery of an exoplanet that is essentially still in its infancy is an important step to understanding how planets, including the Earth, form.

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