Dr. Caleb Scharf

Columbia University

Outstanding questions for exoplanetary science and astrobiology

Exoplanetary science has gone from non-existence to a burgeoning field in less than 20 years. I'll present an overview of the extraordinary abundance and diversity of exoplanets and system architectures, and ask how all of this feeds into the central question of finding evidence for entrenched biospheres on other worlds. I'll focus on advances we're making in understanding the surprising interactions between planetary configurations and climate on 'rocky' worlds, and in evaluating and refining often poorly established orbital elements - including those from directly imaged systems. One of the biggest challenges looming on the horizon is to test for the presence of biospheres through rudimentary measurements of atmospheric chemical composition. Understanding planetary forcing and responses will be critical, as will be understanding the possible ways in which metabolism might rework a planetary environment.

Back to Spring 2013 Astrophysics Seminars

Received April 3, 2013