ASTRONOMY COLLOQUIUM /Spring 2007

February 21

Prof. Joshua Winn

MIT

The Transits of Exoplanets

The transit of a planet across the disk of its parent star is an event to be celebrated and observed in every possible way. For a generic exoplanet, all that is known is the orbital period and minimum mass. For a transiting planet we can also learn the actual mass, radius, temperature, spin-orbit alignment, and much more. Within a decade, transit surveys may detect an Earth-like planet in the habitable zone of its parent star. I will review what current observations have taught us about the structure and formation of exoplanets, and summarize the prospects for future discoveries.