Brown Dwarfs and Extrasolar Planets
Advances in observational techniques and theoretical modeling have led
to recent, long-anticipated detections of brown dwarfs and extrasolar
giant planets. Brown dwarfs and extrasolar planets share a common
trait: they are not massive enough to fuse hydrogen into helium within
their cores, as happens in our sun and other stars. Before the
discovery of other planetary systems, conventional wisdom held that our
solar system was typical: smaller, rocky planets close to the central
star and massive, gaseous planets further away. The recently discovered
planetary systems look quite different, though; some have Jupiter-mass
planets with orbits smaller than that of Mercury.
This lecture series will discuss both the discoveries and their implications. Among the topics are detection strategies, the current census of low-mass objects, the distinction between planet and brown dwarf, the challenge for theories of the formation and evolution of planetary systems, and prospects for future discoveries of even smaller extrasolar planets, perhaps as small as our Earth.
No scientific background is required. Just bring your curiosity and share in the excitement of these new discoveries!