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Talk by Dr Thomas Wilson, University of St Andrews

Planets, moons, asteroids, and comets have fascinated professional and ameteur astronomers alike for millenia. Observations by astronomers such as Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, and Edmund Halley revealed substantial knowledge about the current state of the Solar System, but it has only been over the past half a century that astrophysicists have been able to probe the complete life of a planetary system thanks to the development of space- and ground-based telescopes.

In this talk, I will discuss the current state of knowledge in answering questions such as; How do planetary systems form? Are there Earth-like exoplanets? What happens to planetary systems when their stars die? By highlighting key missions and telescopes I will go through the life of a planetary system. From how ALMA observations of dust and gas teach us about planet formation, to how Kepler, TESS, and CHEOPS have expanded the zoo of known exoplanets to over 5000, to how the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes have revealed the fate of planetary systems including our own Solar System. Finally, I will highlight some upcoming missions and telescopes that will provide further valuable insight into the life of planetary systems.

Thomas Wilson is currently a research fellow at the University of St Andrews working on the discovery and characterisation of Earth-like exoplanets using recently launched space telescopes and cutting-edge ground-based instruments to understand planet formation and evolution by learning about the interiors of these planets. Thomas completed his undergraduate Masters degree in Astronomy at Cardiff University in 2012 before moving to Strasbourg, France to obtain another Masters degree from the International Space University. Following internships at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Washington DC, USA, and the European Space Astronomy Centre in Madrid, Spain, Thomas started a PhD at University College London in 2014 with the main research focuses being Solar System cometary science and planetary systems around white dwarf stars. During his time at UCL, he spent 18 months at the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes in the Canary Islands, Spain working as a telescope operator and researching Near-Earth Asteroids. After obtaining his PhD in 2019, Thomas moved up to St Andrews to study exoplanets with Professor Andrew Collier Cameron.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech