LPL Special Seminar: Dr. Heather Knutson

Bulk Compositions of Small Planets Orbiting Small Stars

Dr. Heather Knutson

Professor of Planetary Science
California Institute of Technology

Bulk Compositions of Small Planets Orbiting Small Stars

The TESS survey has identified an ever-expanding sample of transiting planet candidates, including many multi-planet systems orbiting low-mass (M dwarf) stars. It is an open question as to how the properties of these planetary systems might differ from those of their counterparts orbiting sun-like stars. By measuring masses for transiting M dwarf planets, we can constrain their bulk compositions and corresponding formation histories. In this talk I will present preliminary results from an ongoing program at Palomar Observatory where we are using diffuser-assisted photometry to obtain space-quality infrared light curves for a sample of dynamically interacting multi-planet systems orbiting M dwarfs. Our new transit timing observations allow us to solve for the planet masses in these systems, and to obtain improved measurements of their radii. We use these observations to explore how the densities of M dwarf planets vary as a function of orbital separation from their host star, and to identify promising targets for more detailed atmospheric characterization with the James Webb Space Telescope.

Professor Knutson is the inaugural speaker for the Adam P. Showman Distinguished Visiting Lectureship.

Read more about Professor Heather Knutson.


Wednesday, April 20, 2022 - 10:00am