Reflections from other worlds: detecting the atmospheres of other planets with high resolution spectroscopy


  • Call:

    IDPASC Portugal - PHD Programme 2017

  • Academic Year:

    2017 / 2018

  • Domain:


  • Supervisor:

    Nuno Santos

  • Co-Supervisor:

  • Institution:

    Universidade do Porto

  • Host Institution:

    Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço/Universidade do Porto

  • Abstract:

    Are we alone in the Universe? To answer this question, several high-impact instruments and space missions are in current development, guaranteeing that exoplanetology will be in the front-line of astronomical research for many years to come. With the number of exoplanets increasing at a fast pace, the focus in this field is also starting to focus significant efforts towards the detailed characterization of these alien worlds. In particular, a number of different techniques have enabled the detection of the signature from exoplanet’s atmospheres for already a dozen of cases. The advent of a whole new generation of high-resolution spectrographs - working both in the optical and near-IR – is promising a bright future for this line of research, allowing to characterize increasingly smaller planets at larger distances. ESPRESSO is a new high-resolution spectrograph for the ESO-VLT telescopes (the start of the operations is expected for early 2018). Its unique stability and resolution, coupled with the high collecting area of the VLT telescopes, will allow us to detect and characterize exoplanets with masses similar to that of the Earth. Furthermore, ESPRESSO is expected to give us the possibility to detect the reflected light signal from distant exoplanets. A new window towards the study of exoplanet atmospheres will thus be open. Our team is deeply involved in ESPRESSO, having thus a unique access to this instrument and to its data. In the present PhD offer the student the opportunity to lead the development of a methodology to detect the spectra of exoplanets using high-resolution spectroscopy. The developed methods will be used with new data from ESPRESSO. Together with planet atmosphere models, the observations will allow us to probe and understand in unique detail the physical and chemical conditions of the observed planets, and shed new light into the physics of these distant worlds.