An Update on the Potential Habitability of TRAPPIST-1. No Aliens yet, but We’ve Learned a lot.
Published 4/20/2018 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
One year ago, I wrote an article about the remarkable discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system, a system of seven temperate terrestrial planets orbiting an ultra-cool red dwarf star. This was an enormous astronomical discovery because these low-mass stars are the most numerous ones in our galaxy, and the discovery of potentially habitable planets around one of them led many people to speculate about the existence of life there and elsewhere in our galaxy around similar stars. This announcement also inspired a lot of additional studies by astronomers worldwide, who have used additional instruments and run complex models to better understand... read more ❯

AGU 2015 session: Direct Imaging of Habitable Exoplanets: Progress and Future
Published 12/15/2015 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
Join us tomorrow at the AGU Fall Meeting for a session on direct imaging of habitable exoplanets that I organized with my colleagues Ramses Ramirez from Cornell University and David Black. This session consists in a discussion on the potential of new and future facilities and modeling efforts designed to detect, image and characterize habitable exoplanets, studying their formation, evolution and also the existence of possible biospheres. Topics to be covered in this session include signs of exoplanet habitability and global biosignatures that can be sought with upcoming... read more ❯

The Next Step in Exoplanetary Science: Imaging New Worlds
Published 12/27/2013 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
In 2003, I was lucky enough to be part of a small group of astronomers that met at the University of California at Berkeley to brainstorm on an innovative idea: the design of an instrument to image and characterize planets around other stars, called exoplanets, using a telescope in the 8 – 10 meter class. A decade later, such an instrument became reality with the arrival of the Gemini Planet Imager (called also GPI, or “Gee-pie”) instrument at the Gemini South telescope in Chile. Five known planetary systems imaged with current adaptive optics systems. Fomalhaut shown on... read more ❯

Fate of Planetary Habitability highlighted at the AGU Fall Meeting
Published 12/11/2013 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
Together with Cynthia Phillips, one of my SETI Institute colleagues, I will convene a session at the AGU Fall meeting tomorrow afternoon (oral) and Friday December 13 (poster) entitled "Rapid Environmental Change and the Fate of Planetary Habitability". This session will be an opportunity to see recent works on the adaptability of life in abrupt climate crises. Recent discoveries inspire us to re-examine our understanding of how rapidly planetary habitats can be redistributed. Past habitable environments on Mars from the Curiosity rover, possible subsurface lakes on Europa, and potentially habitable exoplanets from the Kepler spacecraft continue to expand our definition of the... read more ❯

New ET Detection Method Calls for World's Largest Telescope
Published 5/29/2013 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
THE FOLLOWING ITEM WAS ISSUED BY ASTRONOMY MAGAZINE IN WAUKESHA, WISCONSIN, AND IS POSTED ON MY BLOG FOR YOUR INFORMATION. 29 May 2013  This release is based on a story in the June 2013 issue of Astronomy magazine: http://www.astronomy.com/~/media/Files/PDF/Magazine%20articles/ET-with-infrared-light.pdf Until recently, one of the ultimate mysteries of the universe -- how many civilizations may exist on planets orbiting other stars in the Milky Way Galaxy -- relied on the possibility of detecting intelligent beings by radio signals. Now a team of astronomers, engineers, and physicists from the University of Hawaii, the University of Freiburg, and elsewhere has proposed a new and powerful technique to... read more ❯

Progress on the GPI exoplanet imager integration
Published 3/19/2013 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
The Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) is a next generation adaptive optics instrument being built for the Gemini Observatory. This is an ambitious project with the goal of directly imaging extrasolar planets orbiting nearby stars. The instrument is currently being integrated at the University of California at Santa Cruz. After more than a year of testing in a fixed orientation in a clean room, on March 7, 2013, the 2,030 kg instrument was set up on a crane and flexure rig. In collaboration with the UCSC team, we prepared this time lapse video showing GPI being set up in its new position. [caption... read more ❯

Kepler is Sick and Resting: "Mountain View, we have a problem"
Published 1/17/2013 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
"Mountain View, we have a problem..." NASA Kepler Manager at NASA Ames, Mountain View announced today that they interrupted the science operation of the spacecraft, due an issue with one of the reaction wheels.  Kepler is equipped with four reaction wheels which are used to accurately point the telescope. One failed in July 2012 and today the team announced that they detected issues with a second one. Kepler needs three reaction wheels to be used properly, if this one fails the mission is most likely over. That's not good news. The team detected an increase of friction on reaction wheel #4 on January... read more ❯

A Snapshot of Exoplanet Study
Published 5/2/2012 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
The study of exoplanets is without any doubt the most active and disrupting field in today astronomy. I had often blogged about it since it is my little obsession. Unfortunately, I have a hard time to keep up with the amount of discoveries and announcements being made every week over the past 3 years. This post is a snapshot of the recent study of exoplanets: what we know, what have been recently discovered and what is coming soon. Source: en.wikipedia.org via Franck on Pinterest Today (May 2 2012) the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia lists the characteristics of 763 exoplanets.  Exoplanet App contains 760 discovered exoplanets. The NASA Planet... read more ❯

Kepler-16: Exoplanets around binary star systems DO exist
Published 9/15/2011 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
Kepler-16 is another great discovery coming from the Kepler telescope, the 10th NASA Discovery mission which is devoted to finding Earth-size exoplanets by monitoring variations of brightness due to transit. Today the Kepler team found a circumbinary exoplanet, an exoplanet orbiting a binary star system. Did they find Tatooine? In the large 105 deg2 field of view of the Kepler spacecraft, ~156,000 stars are being almost continuously observed by the 0.95m telescope. In 2010, the star number KIC... read more ❯

A landslide of Kepler Exoplanet Candidates
Published 2/2/2011 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
There will be a before and after Kepler Era in astronomy. Today, with the release of 1,202 exoplanet candidates from data collected with the Kepler spacecraft over 140 days of observation, we have just entered in a new age of astronomy. The Kepler spacecraft is the 10th NASA Discovery mission launched in March 2009 which was designed to search for exoplanets by measuring almost continuously the brightness of 156,453 stars in a small 12 degree diameter patch of the sky. The 0.95m-telescope is able to detect attenuation of the host star located in the Cygnus, Lyra, Draco constellations which could be... read more ❯