How much do you know about the new field of exoplanets? If you’re like me, you may have heard about the chase to discover new planets, followed the development of the Kepler mission, or nodded along as announcement after announcement came out over the last few years — but if you haven’t really looked into the physics of the different planet detection techniques, you might find it really satisfying.
I was taught about planet detection shortly after I came to NASA Headquarters in 2001, during a peer review, when I witnessed leading scientists have a spirited argument about the relative merits of the then-established Doppler method of detection versus a new coronograph technique. Listening to these men argue passionately about their science — a science I knew nothing about — was incredible, and I was hooked. Although I didn’t change my work, I did gain an appreciation for this emerging field.
Last December, I sat down with Sara Seager, a participating scientist on the Kepler mission, and asked her about her work in the new field of exoplanets, and how being selected as a participating scientist would help her further her own work in the field.
I’ll post excerpts of her interview as soon as I get her approval, but in the meantime, here’s a review paper on the search for exoplanets, published last spring in Physics World.