Title: Exoplanet Detectives: Seeking Clues to Explain the Diverse Architectures of Exoplanetary Systems
Speaker: Dr. Heather Knutson
Institute: California Inst. of Technology
Description:Over the past two decades ongoing surveys have detected thousands of new planetary systems around nearby stars. These systems include apparently single gas giant planets on short period orbits, closely packed systems of up to 5-6 “mini-Neptunes”, and solar-system-like architectures with either one small planet or no planets interior to 0.5 AU. Despite our success in cataloguing the diverse properties of these systems, we are still struggling to develop narratives that can explain their divergent evolutionary paths. In my talk I will describe two promising new avenues of investigation, including constraints on the compositions of short-period planets and statistical studies of the frequency of outer gas giant and stellar companions in these systems. Taken together, these observations provide important clues that can be used to determine whether or not the observed population of short period exoplanets formed in situ or migrated in from farther out in the disk.