We live in the most extraordinary age of planet discovery in history. The number of likely exoplanets (planets around other stars) has grown from zero in 1990 to over 5000 in 2017. We are beginning to answer age-old questions like: are there other planets like Earth? This talk will survey what we currently know about exoplanets, including: their types, from hot Jupiters to super-Earths; how they form; how we detect them and what we can observe about them; what their climates may be; what “habitable” means and which exoplanets are Earth-like and possibly habitable; and what the histories of Earth, Mars, and Venus tell us about possible Earth-like planets elsewhere. At the end, we will speculate about the possibilities of travel to exoplanets and of terraforming them for human use.
Dr. Warren Wiscombe has done research in climate science since its birth in the early 1970s. He worked 30 years at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and before that in the Climate Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He taught climate and atmospheric science in several countries and universities. His interest turned to exoplanets in his last few years at NASA.