Exoplanets

Definition

Exoplanets are the celestial bodies orbiting stars other than our Sun. Their small size makes them difficult to detect from Earth, particularly as they appear much dimmer than their parent stars. So indirect methods are employed, such as observing changes in starlight as a result of the exoplanet and its motion.

Latest Research and Reviews

  • Research |

    Titanium oxide, water, sodium and a strongly scattering haze have been detected in the atmosphere of the hot Jupiter exoplanet WASP-19b.

    • Elyar Sedaghati
    • , Henri M. J. Boffin
    • , Ryan J. MacDonald
    • , Siddharth Gandhi
    • , Nikku Madhusudhan
    • , Neale P. Gibson
    • , Mahmoudreza Oshagh
    • , Antonio Claret
    •  & Heike Rauer
    Nature 549, 238–241
  • Research |

    Brightness changes of the Sun over timescales from minutes to decades, relevant to Earth’s climate and the detection of exoplanets around Sun-like stars, can be fully and precisely explained by the magnetic field and granulation of the Sun’s surface.

    • A. I. Shapiro
    • , S. K. Solanki
    • , N. A. Krivova
    • , R. H. Cameron
    • , K. L. Yeo
    •  & W. K. Schmutz
    Nature Astronomy 1, 612–616
  • Research |

    Observations of the gas-giant exoplanet WASP-121b reveal near-infrared emission lines of water, suggesting that the planet has a stratosphere—a layer in the upper atmosphere where temperature increases with altitude.

    • Thomas M. Evans
    • , David K. Sing
    • , Tiffany Kataria
    • , Jayesh Goyal
    • , Nikolay Nikolov
    • , Hannah R. Wakeford
    • , Drake Deming
    • , Mark S. Marley
    • , David S. Amundsen
    • , Gilda E. Ballester
    • , Joanna K. Barstow
    • , Lotfi Ben-Jaffel
    • , Vincent Bourrier
    • , Lars A. Buchhave
    • , Ofer Cohen
    • , David Ehrenreich
    • , Antonio García Muñoz
    • , Gregory W. Henry
    • , Heather Knutson
    • , Panayotis Lavvas
    • , Alain Lecavelier des Etangs
    • , Nikole K. Lewis
    • , Mercedes López-Morales
    • , Avi M. Mandell
    • , Jorge Sanz-Forcada
    • , Pascal Tremblin
    •  & Roxana Lupu
    Nature 548, 58–61
  • Research |

    In an analysis of a large sample of microlensing events, a few suggest the existence of Earth-mass free-floating planets, but only the expected number of Jupiter-mass free-floating objects were detected.

    • Przemek Mróz
    • , Andrzej Udalski
    • , Jan Skowron
    • , Radosław Poleski
    • , Szymon Kozłowski
    • , Michał K. Szymański
    • , Igor Soszyński
    • , Łukasz Wyrzykowski
    • , Paweł Pietrukowicz
    • , Krzysztof Ulaczyk
    • , Dorota Skowron
    •  & Michał Pawlak
    Nature 548, 183–186

News and Comment

  • News and Views |

    The nature of exoplanetary atmospheres is hotly debated. The thermal spectrum of an exoplanet called a hot Jupiter reveals the presence of an analogue of Earth's ozone layer, although its composition is unknown. See Letter p.58

    • Kevin Heng
    Nature 548, 38–40
  • News and Views |

    In our own solar system, Venus is too hot, Mars is too cold and Earth is just right. Simulations show that making an icy planet habitable is not as simple as melting its ice: many icy bodies swing from too cold to too hot, bypassing just right.

    • Andrew P. Ingersoll
  • Comments and Opinion |

    It's not often that an astronomical object gets its own dedicated observatory, but as the planet Beta Pictoris b moves in front of its host star, its every move will be watched by bRing, eager to discover more about the planet's Hill sphere, explains Matthew Kenworthy.

    • Matthew Kenworthy