Brown Dwarfs and Extrasolar Planets

Compton Lectures, Spring 2001 series

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!

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31 March 2001
Discoveries of Brown Dwarfs and Extrasolar Planets
7 April 2001
The Structure of Stars and Brown Dwarfs
14 April 2001
The Life of a Brown Dwarf
21 April 2001
Observations of Brown Dwarfs
28 April 2001
Detection of Extrasolar Giant Planets
5 May 2001
Searches for Extrasolar Planets
19 May 2001
Solar and Planetary Formation
26 May 2001
Planet Migration and Orbital Stability
2 June 2001
Future Observations
9 June 2001
Extraterrestrial Life

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Last modified: 6 March 2002
Ed Brown