exoplanets

Magnetoastrocoolness: How Cosmic Magnetic Fields Shape Planetary Systems

For one thing, they can cause embryonic planets to spiral inward.

AUSTIN, Texas—Astrophysicists have a funny attitude toward magnetic fields. You might say they feel both repelled and attracted. Gravitation is assumed to rule the cosmos, so models typically neglect magnetism, which for most researchers is just as well, because the theory of magnetism has a forbidding reputation. The basic equations are simple enough, solving them […]

Why Don’t Exoplanets Match Astronomers’ Expectations?

A dispatch from the American Astronomical Society meeting.

SEATTLE—The most exhilarating science conference I’ve ever been to took place in San Antonio 15 years ago this week, when planet hunters Geoff Marcy and Paul Butler announced they had found two planets orbiting sunlike stars beyond our solar system. Coming a couple of months after another team, led by Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, […]

A Galaxy of New Worlds

The diversity of planets outside our solar system is really kind of crazy. A dispatch from the American Astronomical Society meeting.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The American Astronomical Society meeting, held here this week, was officially the largest congregation of astronomers (3,400 of them) in history—the most extraordinary collection of cosmic knowledge that has ever gathered together with the possible exception of when Isaac Newton dined alone. The breadth of topics was astounding, but the one that stood out […]

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