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Characterizing super-Earths and mini-Neptunes

We have formally entered the era of super-Earths as masses and/or radii are being measured routinely for planets with a mass of less than ~10 earth-masses. 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 briefly 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.

Cody Hall

Diana Valencia (MIT)

June 13, 2012
14:00 - 15:00