Emily Rauscher

Columbia University, PhD Candidate

Alien Worlds: Exploring Planets Outside of Our Solar System

Twenty years ago we knew of no planets beyond those in our Solar System. Since then we have discovered over 300 orbiting distant stars. Over half of these "extrasolar" planets have been found in the last three years, with detections happening at an accelerating rate. We will take a tour of the most interesting planets, including several that are significantly different from anything in our Solar System: planets as big as Jupiter only a small distance from their stars, planets with cometlike orbits, and planets with atmospheres we have "sniffed" to reveal water and methane. Among other things, I will discuss why these extrasolar planets do not appear like those in our own Solar System and predict what insights future discoveries may bring.