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PhD Opportunity in 2024 - Mitigating stellar signals in exoplanet data

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

Anticipated start date: October 2024

This project will investigate stellar activity in exoplanet observations with TESS, CHEOPS, and HARPS-N to discover and characterise low-mass planets.

Exoplanet radial velocity (RV) instruments have routinely measured planetary masses over the last few decades with a main goal to discover and study an Earth-mass planet. However, in recent years progress towards lower-mass planets has slowed due to stellar processes mimicking planet signals making orbiting bodies harder to detect. These processes affect both exoplanet RV and transit photometry data, however these have mainly being studied in HARPS-N, Kepler, TESS, and CHEOPS observations separately limiting the ability to find low-mass exoplanets. Recently, a ground-breaking technique has been developed to combine exoplanet data from different RV and transit sources to remove stellar activity and discover smaller exoplanets. This promising method will likely become crucial when measuring the radii and masses of Earth-twins discovered by the PLATO space-telescope set to be launched in 2026. Therefore, this project will use this new tool and other methods on observational exoplanet data from the TESS, CHEOPS, and HARPS-N facilities to measure and mitigate stellar signals and confidently discover orbiting terrestrial exoplanets. The project will involve:

  • Using Gaussian Process methods to fit exoplanet radial velocity data and measure the masses of exoplanets.
  • Developing new techniques to combine these methods with exoplanet transit photometry data.
  • Building a ground-breaking framework to model stellar activity and discover low-mass exoplanets.