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The Atmospheric Circulation of Extrasolar Giant Planets

Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Lewis (LPL)

The study of extrasolar planets continues to be one of the fastest growing areas of astronomical and planetary science research. To date, over 500 extrasolar planets  have been detected, over 100 of which have been determined to transit their host star as seen from Earth. Observations of these transiting systems allow us to move beyond simple mass and period estimates to determine planetary radius, dayside emission, and emission variations as a function of orbital phase.  Through these observations we are able to take the first steps at characterizing the thermal structure, chemical composition, and circulation patterns in the atmospheres of extrasolar planets.  In this talk I will focus on my recent work modeling atmospheric circulation for a small population of eccentric transiting extrasolar planets.  These planets experience time-variable heating and probable non-synchronous rotation rates that play key roles in shaping their atmospheric circulation patterns. Additionally, I will discuss current efforts utilizing the Spitzer Space Telescope to observe full orbit light curves of several transiting planets to reveal their global circulation patterns.

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