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Extrasolar Planets and Prospects for Terrestrial Planets

  • Geoffrey W. Marcy (a1), R. Paul Butler (a2), Steven S. Vogt (a3) and Debra A. Fischer (a1)

Abstract

Examination of ∼2000 sun–like stars has revealed 97 planets (as of 2002 Nov), all residing within our Milky Way Galaxy and within ∼200 light years of our Solar System. They have masses between 0.1 and 10 times that of Jupiter, and orbital sizes of 0.05–5 AU. Thus planets occupy the entire detectable domain of mass and orbits. News & summaries about extrasolar planets are provided at: http://exoplanets.org. These planets were all discovered by the wobble of the host stars, induced gravitationally by the planets, causing a periodicity in the measured Doppler effect of the starlight. Earth–mass planets remain undetectable, but space–based missions such as Kepler, COROT and SIM may provide detections of terrestrial planets within the next decade.

The number of planets increases with decreasing planet mass, indicating that nature makes more small planets than jupiter–mass planets. Extrapolation, though speculative, bodes well for an even larger number of earth–mass planets. These observations and the theory of planet formation suggests that single sun–like stars commonly harbor earth–sized rocky planets, as yet undetectable. The number of planets increases with increasing orbital distance from the host star, and most known planets reside in non–circular orbits. Many known planets reside in the habitable zone (albeit being gas giants) and most newly discovered planets orbit beyond 1 AU from their star. A population of Jupiter–like planets may reside at 5–10 AU from stars, not easily detectable at present. The sunlike star 55 Cancri harbors a planet of 4–10 Jupiter masses orbiting at 5.5 AU in a low eccentricity orbit, the first analog of our Jupiter, albeit with two large planets orbiting inward.

To date, 10 multiple–planet systems have been discovered, with four revealing gravitational interactions between the planets in the form of resonances. GJ 876 has two planets with periods of 1 and 2 months. Other planetary systems are “hierarchical”, consisting of widely separated orbits. These two system architectures probably result from gravitational interactions among the planets and between the planets and the proto-planetary disk out of which they formed.

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Extrasolar Planets and Prospects for Terrestrial Planets

  • Geoffrey W. Marcy (a1), R. Paul Butler (a2), Steven S. Vogt (a3) and Debra A. Fischer (a1)

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