Exoplanets & Stellar Astrophysics Research

Exoplanets & Stellar Astrophysics Research

Extrasolar Planets

thumbnail of light curve plot of transiting planet
Photometry of the secondary transit of exoplanet HD 209458 with Spitzer.

Besides the many missions and programs aimed at planet detection, current exoplanet research at Goddard includes transit spectroscopy, searches for planets around white dwarfs, research in to the nature of the habitable zone, and theoretical studies of planet formation. A number of the extrasolar planets detected so far exhibit a transit across their parent star as seen from Earth. These planets have offered the deepest look yet into the nature of planets outside the solar system. Using the Spitzer Space Telescope, our team has recently detected one planet's secondary eclipse---the time when the planet disappears behind the star. This observation represents the first detected of radiation emitted from an extrasolar planet.

Drake Deming, Marc Kuchner, Bill Danchi , Richard Barry, Bruce Woodgate, Jeremy Richardson

Videos about the first detection of light from an exoplanet.
Goddard's Astrobiology Node
Goddard's Solar System Exploration Division

Debris Disks

Pictoris STIS Image
STIS coronagraphic image of the edge-on debris disk around Beta Pictoris.

The Beta Pictoris circumstellar disk is referred to as a debris disk, since the gas and dust surrounding this 12 Myr old star is produced by the destruction of solid planetary material. A debris disk like this one is probably in the terrestrial planet formation phase. Our group studies debris disks as a means of learning about planet formation and as a stepping stone towards direct detection of exoplanets.

Mark Clampin, Carol Grady, Sally Heap, Marc Kuchner, Aki Roberge

Young Stellar Objects

Disk around 
Coronagraphic image of the protoplanetary disk around HD141569 with ACS.

Jovian planets probably form in disks arond young stellar objects like T Tauri stars and Herbig Ae stars. Images of these stars tell us about the temperatures, dynamics, and chemistry of protoplanetary disks and their associated phenomena: jets and outflows. Goddard astronomers observe yonung stellar objects with HST and with ground-based interferometers like the Keck Interferometer and the IOTA interferometer.

Bill Danchi, Mark Clampin, Carol Grady, Richard Barry

Stellar Astrophysics

HST pic of Eta Carina
WFPC2 image of supermassive star Eta Carina

Goddard Scientists study individual stars-- supermassive stars, Wolf-Rayet stars, chromospherically active stars, luminous blue variables-- and also stellar populations in the Milky Way and in nearby galaxies like M31. Using FUSE and HST, we study the X-ray-modified stellar winds from high-mass X-ray binaries the explosion debris from supernova 1987A, and molecular hydrogen in planetary nebulae.

Ted Gull, Ken Carpenter, Rosina Iping, Bill Danchi, Sally Heap, Randy Kimble, Allen Sweigart, George Sonneborn, Jon Morse, Derck Massa, Chuck Bowers, Jay Rajagopal, Debra Wallace

Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer
Eta Carina Website
GALEX Website
Pretty HST Pictures


Model of Vega's Disk
Numerical model of the dust around main sequence star Vega, showing the dynamical influence of a planet on an eccentric orbit.

Using Goddard's supercomputers combined with new analytic methods, our team studies the dynamics of planetary systems, planet formation, the origin of the Earth's water and the variety of extrasolar planets. We are working on understanding post-main-sequence evolution, including the propertiesof horizontal branch stars, non-canonical mixing in stellar interiors, and the second parameter effect in globular clusters.

Marc Kuchner, Eli Dwek, Allen Sweigart, Chris Stark.

Thunderhead Beowulf cluster
Columbia Supercomputer


Schematic of 

Besides directly supporting ongoing programs and missions, we research new instrumentation concepts that will help us detect and characterize extrasolar planets and create high-resolution images of stars and circumstellar environments. We are pursing laboratory and theoretical studies of coronagraphy, wavefront sensing, development of new detectors and photocathodes, Fabry-Perot spectroscopy, integrated field spectrographs, and new interferometric techniques at visible, infrared and submillimeter wavelengths.

Rick Lyon, Chuck Bowers, Marc Kuchner, Randy Kimble, Bruce Woodgate, Ken Carpenter, Tim Norton, Carol Grady, Harvey Moseley, Bill Danchi

Exoplanets Seminar Series

Our Exoplanets Seminar Series meets Thursdays at noon in Build. 21, Rm. 183.


Interested in joining our team? Apply for an NRC postdoctoral fellowship or for a NASA Graduate Student Research Program fellowship.
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