Future prospects for the detection and characterization of extrasolar planets
Department of Physics, University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, 00133 Rome, Italy
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Several distinctly different techniques have detected almost 500 planets orbiting around main-sequence stars, 45 multiple planet systems, and a number of extrasolar planets have been the subject of direct study. Hundreds of other “candidate” planets detected by the Kepler spacecraft await confirmation of their existence. Planets are thus common phenomena around stars, and the prospects seem good in the next few years for establishing statistics on the occurrence of Earth-sized planets. Extension of the most successful technique of Doppler spectroscopy in sensitivity to detect Earth-mass planets around Sun-like stars will be limited by the noise generated by the stellar photospheres themselves. The James Webb Space Telescope will have the capability to measure atmospheric abundances of certain gases and of liquid water on extrasolar planets, including “superEarths” within a factor of two of the radius of the Earth. The ultimate goal of measuring the atmospheric composition of an Earth-sized planet orbiting at 1 AU around a star like the Sun remains a daunting challenge that is perhaps twenty years in the future.
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2010