Exoplanet surveys have revealed an amazing diversity of planets orbiting other stars in the last two decades. Studying the atmospheres of representative exoplanets is the key next step in leveraging these detections to further transform our understanding of planet formation and planetary physics. Additionally, atmospheric studies are critical for determining if any of the small habitable zone exoplanets that are now being detected are truly habitable, and even inhabited. In this talk I will describe a vision for how we can pursue the compelling opportunities in exoplanet atmospheres today and in the future. One crucial need in this area is spectroscopy to reveal planets in high definition. I will present new results from intensive observational campaigns with the Hubble Space Telescope that serve as a model for the proposed program, including a definitive constraint on the atmosphere of the super-Earth archetype GJ1214b, a precise measurement of the water abundance in a giant planet, and the inference of the thermal structure of an exoplanet atmosphere as a function of longitude. A fundamental component of the envisioned approach for the future is the need for a strategic program combining observations with multiple ground- and space-based telescopes using a suite of techniques to investigate the question of habitability. I will conclude by discussing how future facilities are poised to play a crucial role in the identification of the first Earth twin as part of this plan.
Argonne Physics Division Colloquium Schedule