How to Find a Habitable Planet
with Courtney Dressing
Saturday November 18, 2017 at 11:00 AM
100 Genetics & Plant Biology, UC Berkeley
Several decades of ground- and space-based investigations have revealed that our galaxy is teeming with planetary systems and that Earth-sized planets are common. Courtney will review our understanding of small planets and then chart a path towards the detection and characterization of habitable planets orbiting nearby stars.
Data from the NASA Kepler mission can be used to estimate the frequency of potentially habitable planets orbiting “red dwarfs,” low-mass stars that comprise 75% of the stars in the galaxy. Red dwarfs are significantly smaller and cooler than stars like the Sun and therefore have much closer habitable zones. K2, the second career of the Kepler spacecraft, is able to observe and characterize planets orbiting brighter red dwarfs.
The upcoming NASA TESS mission will spur another exoplanet revolution by detecting hundreds of small planets orbiting bright stars. These planets will be ideal targets for follow-up mass measurement using the “Doppler Wobble” technique and detailed atmospheric characterization, setting the stage for the next phase of exoplanet exploration: the quest for biosignatures in the atmospheres of strange new worlds.