+ Facts and figures

Theme leader
Prof Isabelle Baraffe

01392 725123

Total investment*

Total research income*


Research in this theme has also received a number of European awards.

*University investment

We are working with the Met Office on modelling climates on extrasolar planets.

Our research has shown what sunsets look like on extrasolar planets.

Extrasolar Planets

Research into exoplanets is teaching us more about our own planet, its history, and its future.

Our research in this area unites staff from Mathematics and Astrophysics and covers:

  • Star and planet formation,
  • exoplanets,
  • stellar physics, and
  • galaxies and the interstellar medium.

Our impact

Modelling climates on extrasolar planets

We are modelling climates on extrasolar planets using the Met Office Climate and Weather prediction model (Unified Model).

Our first tests demonstrate the superiority of the Unified Model and significant improvement that can be expected using this tool for the study of exoplanets.

The underlying physics determining the behaviour of an exoplanet atmosphere is similar to that which determines the behaviour of the Earth's atmosphere, so the Unified Model can be applied to planets other that Earth. However some exoplanets are very different to anything in our own Solar system and present some distinct challenges to the model. 

High temperature planets

We have gained new insight into the formation and physical properties of extrasolar planets through our collaborative work on high temperature planets, carried out using the NASA Hubble Space Telescope.

We achieved greater understanding of heat redistribution work on modelling climates on extrasolar planets, in partnership with the Met Office. This work, led by Extrasolar Planets theme leader Prof Isabelle Baraffe, saw the Met Office's climate model adapted to study the atmospheric properties of planets orbiting other stars.

Planets orbiting other stars

The first ever image of multiple planets orbiting a star other than our own was captured by an award winning team including Exeter's Dr Jenny Patience. The team scooped the 2009 Newcomb Cleveland Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) which recognises an outstanding paper published in the leading academic journal, Science.

Sunsets on other planets

The ExoClimes website, which is maintained by astrophysicists at the University of Exeter and the University of Oxford, has been used to share results with professional and amateur astronomers. This has included work showing how sunsets look on other planets. Writing on the website Prof Frédéric Pont said the sunset on the planet HD 209 (Osiris) 'looks truly alien' because the star is white outside the atmosphere then acquires a bluish tinge as it sets.

Investigating star formation

Our team have created the largest computer numerical simulation of star formation in the world and is now investigating the process of planet formation.