Edinburgh Women in Space 2021 conference talk: New frontiers in exoplanet science

I was invited to give a 10-minute PhD lightning talk at the Edinburgh Women in Space Conference from 26-28 March 2021. Here’s the talk, with a brief non-technical overview of recent exoplanet science and my research.

Earth the exoplanet

Compared to exoplanets, we know a lot about the Earth. It’s our home planet and the one that shapes our expectations when we study other worlds. Planetary science evolved out of Earth science. Exoplanet models started out as Earth climate models. Yet research on Earth throughout its history shows that the climate has been veryContinue reading “Earth the exoplanet”

Water cloud, acid cloud, iron cloud

A little while ago my kitchen sink had a serious clog. The emergency plumber worked on it for two hours. After failing to clear it with the manual plumbing snake and the much larger, electric plumbing snake, he finally tossed in the towel and poured a bottle of 80% sulphuric acid (chemical formula H2SO4) downContinue reading “Water cloud, acid cloud, iron cloud”

How do we know what’s in an exoplanet’s atmosphere?

A planet’s atmosphere contains different chemical elements. The Earth’s atmosphere, for example, consists of about 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.9% argon, and just 0.01% other gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and ozone. Earth’s atmosphere also contains varying amounts of water vapour in different regions and at different heights. That catch-all “other” category may be small,Continue reading “How do we know what’s in an exoplanet’s atmosphere?”

Planet Profile: Proxima Centauri b

The closest star to our Sun is called Proxima Centauri. It was discovered over 100 years ago by the Scottish astronomer Robert Innes and is estimated to be only 4.25 lightyears away. Getting a feel for the kinds of distances we’re talking about in astronomy is difficult, so let’s use a mental yardstick to help.Continue reading “Planet Profile: Proxima Centauri b”