Astronomers have now discovered over 3,800 planets orbiting other stars. Ranging from inferno gas giants with temperatures as hot as stars to rocky terrestrial worlds residing in the habitable zone, the diversity of planets in our galaxy continues to offer surprises. Exoplanet science is now going through a paradigm shift, as we move from the era of discovery to the era of characterisation.
By peering into the atmosphere of an exoplanet, one can infer the conditions on these distant worlds. Over the last decade, astronomers have developed new techniques to measure the atmospheres of exoplanets in remarkable detail. In the near future, these very techniques may ultimately allow detections of biosignatures in the atmospheres of distant worlds.
Ryan MacDonald is an exoplanet astronomer at the University of Cambridge. By creating theoretical models of exoplanet atmospheres, he seeks to explain spectroscopic observations taken with space and ground-based telescopes. In this talk, he will explain the main techniques used to characterise exoplanet atmospheres, highlight recent cutting-edge discoveries, and look ahead to the prospect of detecting life elsewhere in our galaxy.