UW Today

Companion planets can increase old worlds’ chance at life

Having a companion in old age is good for people — and, it turns out, might extend the chance for life on certain Earth-sized planets in the cosmos as well.

‘Upside-down planet’ reveals new method for studying binary star systems

What looked at first like a sort of upside-down planet has instead revealed a new method for studying binary star systems, discovered by a UW student astronomer.

‘Dimer molecules’ aid study of exoplanet pressure, hunt for life

UW astronomers have developed a new method of gauging the atmospheric pressure of exoplanets, or worlds beyond the solar system, by looking for a certain type of molecule. And if there is life out in space, it may one day be revealed by this method.

Astronomers solve temperature mystery of planetary atmospheres

An atmospheric peculiarity the Earth shares with Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune is likely common to billions of planets, University of Washington astronomers have found, and knowing that may help in the search for potentially habitable worlds.

Study: Greenhouse gas might have warmed early Mars enough to allow liquid water

The mystery of how the surface of Mars, long dead and dry, could have flowed with water billions of years ago may have been solved by research that included a University of Washington astronomer.

Planetary ‘runaway greenhouse’ more easily triggered, research shows

It might be easier than previously thought for a planet to overheat into the uninhabitable “runaway greenhouse” stage, according to new research.

A warmer planetary haven around cool stars, as ice warms rather than cools

In a bit of cosmic irony, planets orbiting cooler stars may be more likely to remain ice-free than planets around hotter stars. This is due to the interaction of a star’s light with ice and snow on the planet’s surface.

Astronomer studies far-off worlds through ‘characterization by proxy’

A UW astronomer is using Earth’s interstellar neighbors to learn the nature of certain stars too far away to be directly measured or observed, and the planets they may host.

Astronomers discover five-planet system with most Earth-like exoplanet yet

A University of Washington astronomer has discovered perhaps the most Earth-like planet yet found outside the solar system by the Kepler Space Telescope.