Characterizing Super-Earths and Mini-Neptunes
In the frontier field of exoplanets, super-Earths are the newest class. There is much to be learned about these objects because they do not exist in the solar system. The composition of these planets reflects their initial chemical inventory and early formation processes, such as giant impact collisions and atmospheric evaporation. While inferring the composition of super-Earths and mini-Neptunes is a difficult endeavor given the degenerate character of the problem, it illuminates formation processes in a new parameter space. I will present results on the composition of the transiting low-mass planets and its connection to early formation processes. Interestingly, the subset of super-Earths that are solid (either terrestrial or ocean/icy-like) may have evolved habitable conditions. The thermal evolution of a solid planet is intimately connected to its interior dynamics, which is determined by the behavior of fluid and heat transport under high pressures and temperatures. I will discuss the newest results on the interior dynamics and thermal evolution of rocky super-Earths. This work will help in our search for habitable planets.
Date: Tuesday, 24 January 2012 Time: 16:00 Where: McGill University Ernest Rutherford Physics Building, Board Room (room 105) Contact: Robert Rutledge