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Exoplanets @ Goddard

SEEC Symposium 2019

SEEC Symposium 2019  |  November 4-8, 2019  |  NASA GSFC, Greenbelt, MD

Rocky Exoplanets in the Era of JWST: Theory and Observation

Science Organizing

Avi Mandell (co-Chair, NASA GSFC), Eliza Kempton (co-Chair, UMD), Vincent Bourrier (UNIGE), Tony Del Genio (NASA GISS), Courtney Dressing (UC Berkeley), Michaël Gillon (Liège), Nikole Lewis (Cornell), Eric Lopez (NASA GSFC), Michael Meyer (Michigan), Leslie Rogers (Chicago), Laura Schaefer (Stanford), David Sing (JHU)


We have firmly entered the era of exoplanet characterization. Observations examining the composition and thermal structure of the terminator and day-side regions of the atmospheres of tidally locked warm gas-rich planets is now routine with the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes, and thermal imaging of young warm Jupiter-mass planets from ground-based telescopes is providing compositional constraints as well. However, the characterization of the environments of rocky exoplanets has only barely begun – apart from some intriguing initial measurements of the brightest hot super-Earth 55 Cnc e, we only have masses and radii for small planets, and attempts at atmospheric characterization have produced only featureless or ambiguous spectra.

With its large primary mirror and complement of IR instrumentation, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is poised to dramatically expand our view of the environments of rocky exoplanets. JWST will be further aided by the discovery of a new crop of small planets orbiting nearby low-mass stars and brown dwarfs from the TESS mission and ground-based surveys, enabling higher precision measurements over a wider population of potentially rocky worlds. With these exciting opportunities on the horizon, now is the time to improve our understanding of what information can be gleaned about rocky worlds from these future measurements, based on our understanding of the observations themselves as well as detailed modeling of the planetary environments that will be examined.

Key areas of work/discussion include:

  • What are the general capabilities of the JWST instrumentation in terms of rocky exoplanets?
  • How will the JWST Early Release Science program inform us on the actual capabilities?
  • What other observational capabilities will come online during the era of JWST, and what can they contribute to the study of rocky worlds?
  • What observing and analysis strategies will help us to extract constraints on rocky exoplanet characteristics, based on the quality of data in the JWST era?
  • Determining what to expect for the composition and structure of rocky planet atmospheres around low-mass and ultra-low-mass stars
  • Understanding the impact of interactions with the parent star, including UV and particle fluxes, along with the physio-chemical evolution of planetary atmospheres under these influences
  • Modeling atmospheric dynamics for thin atmospheres, especially in the tidally locked spin-orbit
  • Volatile inventories for rocky planets in different environments, and how we can constrain these inventories through observations
  • Internal geodynamics, including magnetic fields and internal dynamos
  • Understanding biosignatures for habitable planets that may be observed in the JWST era, and similarly, understanding false positives that may lead to confusion
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