In the last two decades, new discoveries have improved our understanding
of other planetary systems. By measuring the brightnesses and motions of
nearby stars, astronomers have detected more than 200 planets in 170
planetary systems. Most planets are gas giants like Jupiter or Neptune.
Others are icy super-Earths. SSP scientists use ground-based and
space-based instruments to detect and to characterize exoplanets.
Starting in the mid-1980's, infrared satellites revealed debris disks
around nearby stars. Most debris disks are roughly the size of the
Solar System and contain a few lunar masses of small dust particles.
Although planets are not directly detected in debris disks, the debris
is a signpost of terrestrial and gas giant planet formation. SSP
scientists use numerical calculations to characterize debris disks
and to develop tools to infer the masses of planets within the debris.
AFOE planet detection program
Canada's MOST mission
NASA's Kepler mission
Numerical simulations of the formation of planets and debris disks
Origins of Life Initiative