Results from NASA's Kepler planet-hunting mission have indicated that the most common planets in the galaxy are super-Earths—those that are bigger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. Heather Knutson and her colleagues are using space telescopes to try to find out more about these worlds.
Konstantin Batygin recently joined the Caltech faculty as assistant professor of planetary science, following graduate school at Caltech (PhD '12) and a postdoc at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Batygin shares the string of synchronicities that brought him to planetary astrophysics and to Caltech.
In 1964, Caltech astronomy professor Guido Münch and Jet Propulsion Laboratory space scientists Lewis Kaplan and Hyron Spinrad pushed the world's second-largest telescope to its limits and dashed—at least for the next few decades—any hopes of finding liquid water on Mars.
If you ask Andy Ingersoll how Caltech has contributed to our understanding of the universe, he will tell you, "Caltech invented planetary science!" And since the field's origins just fifty years ago, Caltech has become one of the top centers of planetary science research in the world.
If you could lick the surface of Jupiter's icy moon Europa, you would actually be sampling a bit of the ocean beneath. So says Mike Brown, an astronomer at Caltech. Brown and Kevin Hand from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have found the strongest evidence yet that water from the vast liquid ocean beneath Europa's frozen exterior actually makes its way to the surface.
John A. Johnson, assistant professor of planetary astronomy at Caltech, received the 2012 Newton Lacy Pierce Prize at the 221st meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), in Long Beach, California.