Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Beginnings of Exoplanet Geophysics

Exoplanetary Geophysics -- An Emerging Discipline


Laughlin et al


Thousands of extrasolar planets have been discovered, and it is clear that the galactic planetary census draws on a diversity greatly exceeding that exhibited by the solar system's planets. We review significant landmarks in the chronology of extrasolar planet detection, and we give an overview of the varied observational techniques that are brought to bear. We then discuss the properties of the currently known distribution, using the mass-period diagram as a guide to delineating hot Jupiters, eccentric giant planets, and a third, highly populous, category that we term "ungiants", planets having masses less than 30 Earth masses and orbital periods less than 100 days. We then move to a discussion of the bulk compositions of the extrasolar planets. We discuss the long-standing problem of radius anomalies among giant planets, as well as issues posed by the unexpectedly large range in sizes observed for planets with masses somewhat greater than Earth's. We discuss the use of transit observations to probe the atmospheres of extrasolar planets; various measurements taken during primary transit, secondary eclipse, and through the full orbital period, can give clues to the atmospheric compositions, structures, and meteorologies. The extrasolar planet catalog, along with the details of our solar system and observations of star-forming regions and protoplanetary disks, provide a backdrop for a discussion of planet formation in which we review the elements of the favored pictures for how the terrestrial and giant planets were assembled. We conclude by listing several research questions that are relevant to the next ten years and beyond.

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