Andrew W. Howard
Professor Howard is interested in the formation and evolution of extrasolar planets, i.e. planets orbiting stars other than the Sun. Using telescopes in Hawaii, California, and in space, his research group discovers and characterizes planets to determine their physical and orbital characteristics. With thousands of planetary systems for comparison, our Solar System is placed in a broader context.
A particular focus of Howard's research is the diversity of small planets. Within our Solar System, Neptune and Earth are the archetypal small planets, representing low-density ice giants and high-density rocky planets. In extrasolar systems we see a much greater diversity of structure and composition owing to broadly varying admixtures of the basic planetary ingredients of hydrogen gas, water, rock, and iron.