How the coolest, smallest stars could help us discover new exoplanets

Field notes from space-time | Exoplanets are abundant near the galaxy’s smallest stars. Observing M dwarfs could teach us more about the worlds beyond our solar system, writes Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

Space | Comment 7 August 2019
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M. Weiss/CFA

IN THE past 100 years, astrophysicists have deduced that space-time is expanding, that this expansion is accelerating, that the universe is about 14 billion years old and that there are at least 4000 planets beyond those in our solar system, called exoplanets. When I wrote my junior undergraduate thesis on exoplanet atmospheres back in 2002, all we knew was that simulations suggested we should see sodium in the atmospheres – and we did, but we saw less of it than expected. Today, our simulations are more sophisticated and we have moved beyond basic details about atmospheres to thinking …

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