Seminar Series

The future of exoplanet research: discovery, characterisation, habitability and life?


Dr. Duncan Wright,


Postdoctoral Fellow Dept. of Astrophysics and Optics, University of New South Wales Candidate for the position of Lecturer in Astronomy

Time & Place

Fri, 27 May 2016 10:00:00 NZST in Rutherford 701, Level 7

All are welcome


In the last few years the Kepler space telescope has discovered thousands of exoplanets giving us incredible statistics on the occurrence rate of different types of planets. Unfortunately the majority of those discoveries are orbiting stars too faint for effective follow-up research. The next few years will bring the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS; 2017) and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST; 2018) that will take us to the next level in this research area: atmospheric characterisation.

TESS will provide the astronomy community with thousands of bright (I < 14mag) transiting exoplanet candidates. All of these planets will be able to have their bulk-density measured from high-precision Doppler velocities and some will be suitable for more detailed characterisation. A subset of the newly discovered exoplanets (<8 earth masses) will be of particular interest for atmospheric characterisation with JWST's NIRSpec near-IR spectrograph as low-mass exoplanets are the focus of the search for potentially habitable worlds.

I will discuss the current state of exoplanetary science, and I will also talk about the current and planned instrumentation, with a focus on high-resolution spectrographs, and the roles that they will play in the next leap forward in exoplanetary science.