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PhD Opportunity in 2024 - Discovering exoplanets around compositionally-diverse stars

Supervisor/Contact info: Dr. Thomas WilsonLink opens in a new window

Anticipated start date: October 2024

This project will observationally investigate how the atmospheres and interiors of Earth-like exoplanets orbiting compositionally-diverse stars are different to our own Earth

Terrestrial exoplanets are formed out of pebbles within the protoplanetary disk. These building blocks are mainly iron and silicates, with heavier components sinking to form metallic cores and lighter ones rising to produce planet mantles. As protoplanetary disks and stars are built from the same material, any planets are therefore also predicted to be compositionally linked to the host star. This means that exoplanets orbiting compositionally-diverse stars, i.e. iron-poor or silicate-rich, should have different interiors that would affect everything from volcanism to magnetic fields to atmospheres, and change the habitability of Earth-like planets. Therefore, this project will use the TESS and CHEOPS space telescopes and the HARPS-N instrument to discover and study the interiors of exoplanets orbiting compositionally-diverse stars. The project will involve:

  • Discovering exoplanets around iron-poor stars with the TESS spacecraft.
  • Analysing exoplanet transit photometry and radial velocity data from the CHEOPS and HARPS-N instruments.
  • Interpreting interior structure and atmospheric escape results of these characterised planets.