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Physics Colloquium

Thursday, October 10, 2019
4:00pm to 5:00pm
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East Bridge 201 (Richard P. Feynman Lecture Hall)
New frontiers in exoplanet science with high-contrast imaging and spectroscopy
Dimitri Mawet, Caltech & JPL,

Exoplanet science has revolutionized our view of the Universe and ushered in the second Copernican revolution. After nearly three decades of exoplanet hunting, we now know of more than 4000 exoplanets. The Solar system is just one example amongst a mind-boggling variety of planetary system architectures. Most exoplanets have been discovered indirectly by the Doppler velocimetry and transit method, which have limited remote sensing capabilities, leaving much to learned about, for instance, atmospheric compositions and dynamics. Beyond taking pictures, high contrast imaging provides the most detailed and robust measurements of exoplanets and their system. However, separating the signal of a faint exoplanet orbiting close to its host star is challenging, and has so far been confined to infrared studies of young giant exoplanets on long-period orbits. Despite this limitation, direct imaging surveys have successfully constrained giant planet formation theories, collected the best exoplanet spectra to date, and explored the intricacies of planetary system dynamics. Future ground-based and space-based giant telescopes will enable the direct detection and characterization temperate Earth-size exoplanets and, along the way, shed invaluable light on a wide range of planet types, including the ubiquitous mini-Neptunes and super-Earths. In this talk, I will describe my group's efforts to push the envelope of high contrast imaging and spectroscopy by developing new and original lines of investigations using innovative technologies and observing techniques.