Illustration of a planet being accreted by its host star. From https://aasnova.org/2017/07/12/wasp-12b-and-its-possible-fiery-demise/.

When the first exoplanets were discovered, astronomers were shocked to find gas giants like Jupiter but zipping around their host stars in days rather than years. These hot Jupiters orbited so close that astronomers worried they might eventually spiral into their stars. Although no one has yet seen a planet disappear, mounting circumstantial evidence suggests perhaps 35% of stars actually do consume their planetary children.

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Artist’s impression of the formation of a gas giant planet. From https://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1310a/.

Friday marked the end of the 2021 TESS Science Conference. Hosted virtually by MIT, this workshop marked the second in a series dedicated to exoplanet science related to NASA’s TESS (the Transiting Exoplanets Survey Satellite) mission. From the discovery of a gas giant on the verge of tumbling into its host star to observations of starquakes, the week was crammed too full for a single blog entry to do it justice.

So instead of a full summary, I wanted zero in on one topic that has profound implications for understanding the natures of exoplanets: the planets’ compositions.

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NASA has sent missions to Mars since the mid-60s, but Mars’ interior has remained hidden from view. The InSight mission has begun to lift the veil to reveal a world with active quakes, shedding light on Mars’ ancient history, but the grand successes have also come with frustrating failures.

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