Though just 20 years old, the field of exoplanet science has made remarkable progress. We now know that rocky planets are common, giant planets fairly uncommon, and that there are likely more planets than there are stars. In the coming decade, efforts to detect and characterize rocky planets will focus on cool stars, in part because they are abundant and frequently host small planets. However, these stars are known to be highly magnetically active, thus planets they host are subjected to significantly more radiation than we experience from the Sun; just how much this affects their habitability is unsettled. As we move from detecting planets to characterizing the touchstone worlds, it is essential that we assemble a broad spectrum of expertise. At Goddard Space Flight Center we are bringing together Earth, Solar, Astrophysics and Planetary Scientists, to understand the characteristics of these planets we study, with a focus on looking for evidence that could reveal the first signs of life beyond the Solar System. The first half of this talk will focus on the what Kepler has taught us about the demographics of planets, and what we expect to find with the upcoming Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). The second half of this talk presents a case study for interdisciplinary science by discussing a comprehensive program to characterize cool star activity and its impact in exoplanets.
About the Speaker:
Dr. Tom Barclay is an Associate Research Scientist working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Dr. Barclay’s research focuses on measuring properties of exoplanets and their host stars using data from space and ground-based telescopes. Dr. Barclay serves as Deputy Director of the TESS Science Support Center. His primary role is in maximizing the science return from the upcoming Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which will search for exoplanets orbiting nearby stars, beginning in 2018.