Detection and characterization of planets orbiting oscillating red-giant stars with NASA’s TESS mission
IDPASC Portugal - PHD Programme 2016
2016 / 2017
Universidade do Porto
Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço/University of Birmingham
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is a NASA space mission with scheduled launch for late 2017 that will perform a wide-field survey for planets transiting bright nearby stars. Furthermore, TESS's excellent photometric precision, combined with its fine time sampling and long intervals of uninterrupted observations, will enable asteroseismology (i.e., the study of stars by the observation of their natural oscillations) of solar-type and red-giant stars. Asteroseismology is proving to be particularly significant for the study of red-giant stars while quickly maturing into a powerful tool whose impact is being felt more widely across different domains of astrophysics. A noticeable example is the synergy between asteroseismology and exoplanetary science. TESS hence offers the exciting prospect of conducting asteroseismology on a significant number of evolved exoplanet-host stars. The main goal of this project will be to use TESS photometry to systematically detect and characterize transiting planets orbiting oscillating red-giant stars. To that end, we propose an end-to-end PhD project that will provide the student with skills in (i) transit photometry analysis, (ii) asteroseismic data analysis and stellar modeling, and (iii) radial-velocity/spectroscopic techniques. The implications of this project are far-reaching. The proposed systematic search for transiting planets orbiting oscillating red-giant stars is expected to provide new insights into some of the outstanding problems in exoplanetary science, namely, (i) on the planet occurrence rate as a function of stellar mass/evolutionary state, (ii) on the correlation between stellar metallicity and planet occurrence around evolved stars or (iii) on the structural aspects of gas-giant planets.