Skip to content

Public Outreach


Dangerous Worlds

Dr Elizabeth Tasker, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency


Artist impression of TRAPPIST-1, a system of seven Earth-size worlds orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star about 40 light-years away. Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

We thought the planets of our Solar System were weird worlds, until we began to see the lands harboured by our neighbouring stars. Huge Jupiters snuggle so close to their star that a year on that world lasts mere days on Earth. Planets are resurrected from shredded remains to encircle stars that have long been dead. Other worlds begin their nights with dual sunsets like Star Wars Tatooine or drown under global oceans or seas of magma. Let’s visit worlds more extreme than anything in fiction and ask if any could be called home.


Elizabeth Tasker is an associate professor at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Tokyo. Her research explores the formation of stars and planets using computer simulations to follow their evolution. She is originally from the UK, where she studied at Durham and Oxford before crossing the pond to build virtual universes in the USA and Canada. She moved to Japan in 2011. Her book on exoplanets, ‘The Planet Factory’, will be published by Bloomsbury on November 7.