Extrasolar Planets: May 2017

Transmission spectra of exoplanetary atmospheres have been used to infer the presence of clouds/hazes. Such inferences are typically based on spectral slopes in the optical deviant from gaseous Rayleigh scattering or low-amplitude spectral features in the infrared.

Population synthesis models of planetary systems developed during the last ∼15 years could reproduce several of the observables of the exoplanet population, and also allowed to constrain planetary formation models. We present our planet formation model, which calculates the evolution of a planetary system during the gaseous phase.

Exoplanet science promises a continued rapid accumulation of rocky planet observations in the near future, energizing a drive to understand and interpret an unprecedented wealth of data to search for signs of life. The large statistics of exoplanet samples, combined with the ambiguity of our understanding of universal properties of life and its signatures, necessitate a quantitative framework for biosignature assessment.

Here we review how environmental context can be used to interpret whether O2 is a biosignature in extrasolar planetary observations. This paper builds on the overview of current biosignature research discussed in Schwieterman et al. (2017), and provides an in-depth, interdisciplinary example of biosignature identification and observation that serves as a basis for the development of the general framework for biosignature assessment described in Catling et al., (2017).

Of the roughly 3000 neutron stars known, only a handful have sub-stellar companions. The most famous of these are the low-mass planets around the millisecond pulsar B1257+12. New evidence indicates that observational biases could still hide a wide variety of planetary systems around most neutron stars.

We provide an overview of the prospects for biosignature detection and general characterization of temperate Earth-sized planets. We review planned space-based missions and ground-based projects as well as the basic methods they will employ, and summarize which exoplanet properties will become observable as these new facilities come on line.

Finding life on exoplanets from telescopic observations is the ultimate goal of exoplanet science. Life produces gases and other substances, such as pigments, which can have distinct spectral or photometric signatures. Whether or not life is found in future data must be expressed with probabilities, requiring a framework for biosignature assessment.

We report the discovery of a super-Earth orbiting at the inner edge of the habitable zone of the star GJ 625 based on the analysis of the radial-velocity (RV) time series from the HARPS-N spectrograph, consisting in 151 HARPS-N measurements taken over 3.5 yr. GJ 625 b is a planet with a minimum mass M sin i of 2.82 ± 0.51 M⊕ with an orbital period of 14.628 ± 0.013 days at a distance of 0.078 AU of its parent star.

The search for habitable exoplanets and life beyond the Solar System is one of the most compelling scientific opportunities of our time.

We present ALMA mosaic observations at 1.3 mm (223 GHz) of the Fomalhaut system with a sensitivity of 14 μJy/beam. These observations provide the first millimeter map of the continuum dust emission from the complete outer debris disk with uniform sensitivity, enabling the first conclusive detection of apocenter glow.

The nature of aerosols in hot exoplanet atmospheres is one of the primary vexing questions facing the exoplanet field.

In the coming years and decades, advanced space- and ground-based observatories will allow an unprecedented opportunity to probe the atmospheres and surfaces of potentially habitable exoplanets for signatures of life.

Potentially-habitable planets orbiting M-dwarfs are of intense astrobiological interest because they are the only rocky worlds accessible to biosignature search over the next 10+ years due to a confluence of observational effects.