Extrasolar Planets : The Landscape in 2020
Drake Deming (NASA / GSFC)
One of the great quests of astronomy is to find and characterize habitable worlds orbiting nearby stars. Characterizing a habitable planet requires separating the planetary photons from the flood of photons emitted by the parent star. One way to do this is via high contrast imaging. Another way is to exploit transits, wherein the mutual eclipses of planet and star grant us unprecedented access to the physical properties of the planet. Direct study of extrasolar planets using transits is currently a vigorous field of study, led by Spitzer observations. Moreover, the discovery rate for bright transiting systems is accelerating as the ground-based surveys learn to efficiently cull and identify their candidate systems. The extension of these surveys to M-dwarf stars should culminate in the detection of the nearest habitable world orbiting a lower main sequence star, and its characterization using JWST and other missions.