Physics Colloquium: A General Method for Single Molecule Spectroscopy
Speaker: Brendan Bowler
The University of Texas at Austin
Title: Imaging Gas Giants to Terrestrial Worlds: Revealing the Formation, Dynamical Histories, and Atmospheres of Exoplanets
Finding and characterizing extrasolar planets is one of the most rapidly evolving frontiers in astronomy. Direct imaging—spatially resolving planets from their host stars—is especially challenging but provides unique insight into the orbital architectures, atmospheres, and formation pathways of planets. By exploring planetary systems from the outside-in and directly capturing photons emitted by or reflected from planets, imaging complements other planet-finding techniques sensitive to smaller orbital separations and enables detailed studies of atmospheric structure, dynamics, and composition. I will review recent progress surveying long-period giant planets with an emphasis on observing programs I am leading to establish how planets evolve from the earliest phases of gas accretion to their longer-term dynamical outcomes. The future of the field is bright: imaging planets at closer separations and higher contrasts has been a consistent motivating factor for the next generation of telescopes like JWST, Roman Space Telescope, and the 30-m class telescopes. Eventually these facilities will pave the way for a dedicated space-based mission to image and spectroscopically characterize terrestrial worlds in reflected light in search of metabolic byproducts of life—one of the most formidable but consequential goals of modern astronomy.