Exoplanet researchers are counting down the days until the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. Webb will transform our ability to unveil the atmospheres of planets transiting close to their parent stars. The community is in the process of developing tools, obtaining complementary observations, and planning for the first round of Webb observing proposals.
The Institute hosted a science workshop from October 5–7, 2015 on Feedback in the Magellanic Clouds. This event focused on stellar and galactic feedback in two of our nearest dwarf-galaxy neighbors, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. It featured 75 registered participants, 32 posters, 13 invited talks, and a range of contributed talks and discussions.
Major breakthroughs in our knowledge of exoplanet populations have occurred over the last 10 years. With more than 2300 exoplanets detected by the Kepler mission, we now know that our solar system is not unique and that planets are ubiquitous in our galaxy. Two out of three sun-like stars have a planet the size of Neptune (or smaller) within 0.75 AU, while every dwarf M star—much more numerous than stars like our Sun—hosts at least two planets within similar orbits. Yet several major questions about extra-solar planets remain open such as characterizing their structures and compositions as well as investigating if some harbor life. Clearly we must also learn more about their formation mechanisms. Understanding formation processes requires completing our planet census by detecting and characterizing massive exoplanets on wider orbits. As well, imaging the debris and dust left over from their formation can let us study their birthplaces and analyze their core compositions.