Brave new worlds: the planets in our galaxy

A public lecture by Professor Giovanna Tinetti of University College London as part of EWASS/NAM 2018.

The Earth is special to us - it’s our home. But is it really special as a planet? Every star we can see in the night sky is likely to be orbited by planets. There are probably a thousand billion planets in our galaxy alone. In about twenty years, over 3500 'exoplanets' have been discovered in distant solar systems.

There are planets completing a revolution around their mother star in less than one day, as well as planets orbiting two or even three stars or moving on trajectories so eccentric as to resemble comets. Some of them are freezing cold, some are so hot that their surface is molten. But beyond that our knowledge falters: What are they made of? How did they form? What’s the weather like there? Are they habitable? Finding out why these new worlds are as they are and what is the Earth’s place in our galaxy and - ultimately - in the universe, is one of the key challenges of modern astrophysics.

Giovanna Tinetti is Professor of Astrophysics at University College London where she coordinates a research team on extrasolar planets.

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