Theoretical Models of Exoplanet Atmospheres and Interiors: Implications for Life Detection
Sara Seager (MIT)
Over 300 exoplanets are known to orbit nearby stars. Now that their existence is firmly established, a new era of “exoplanet characterization” has begun. A subset of exoplanets—called transiting planets—pass in front of their stars as seen from Earth. Transiting planets have immeasurably changed the field of exoplanets because their physical properties, including average density and atmospheric properties, can be now be routinely measured. Highlights include identification of molecules in exoplanetary atmospheres and constraints on interior composition. The race to find habitable exoplanets has accelerated with the realization that “big Earths” orbiting close to small stars can be both discovered and characterized with current technology. What will it take to identify such habitable worlds with the observations and theoretical tools available to us?