Exoplanets and Astrobiology

Description

The search for life in the universe has been driven by recent discoveries of planets around other stars (known as exoplanets), becoming one of the most active fields in modern astrophysics. The growing number of new exoplanets discovered in recent years and the recent advance on the study of their atmospheres are not only providing new valuable information about its physical properties, but also allowing to constrain the properties of the Solar system's planets within a more global context. The field is approaching to the important discovery of the first potentially habitable planets and encouraging more detailed studies of them. With the launching of upcoming related satellites like JWST, CHEOPS, TESS, ARIEL and PLATO, the exoplanets field faces a bright future.

It is for this reason that this field is aid of, and at the same time promotes, the development of increasingly sensitive and stable instrumentation for both, ground-based telescopes and space missions. Our group is particularly prepared for these two fronts. On the one hand, during the last years we have developed observational and reduction techniques of exoplanet transits data for the ORM telescopes, ours being one of the most productive groups in the exploitation of GTC. On the other hand, all ESA space missions (present and future) related to exoplanets have one or more components of the project as CoIs. Within the frame of this project, we intend that IAC researchers maintain an advantageous position regarding the operation of OSIRIS and CanariCam, first light

GTC's instruments, and participate in the construction, commissioning and operation of new instruments such as the high resolution optical spectrograph HORUS at GTC. The exploitation of the photometry and spectroscopy of transits with LIRIS at WHT is also one of our principal interests, especially in preparation for the installation in 2015 of EMIR on the GTC .

To summarize, the project "Exoplanets and Astrobiology" will focus on these four action lines:

1) The characterization of atmospheric and physical properties of exoplanets (GTC, WHT, ARIEL, HARPSN, CARMENES, ESPRESSO, etc. ..)

2) The search and confirmation of exoplanets by transits techniques (CoRoT, Kepler, K2, CHEOPS, XO, LCOGT, W FC, DISH, etc. ..)

3) The search and confirmation of exoplanet by radial velocity techniques (HARPSN, HORUS, LCOGT, SONG, CARMENES)

4) Astrobiology

Principal investigator
  1. Detection of He in the atmosphere of an exoplanet from the ground, published in Science
  2. Detection of a super-earth around Barnard star, published in Nature
  3. Detection of the first TESS planets, with several papers of high relevance
  4. Discovery of Na and Halpha features in the spectrum of KELT-20b with TNG
  5. Publication of the Handbook of Exoplanets, the most extensive work of reference in the field of exoplanets. The Handbook was edited by members of our group, and includes contributions by about 300 experts worldwide, including 12 members of IAC.

Publications related

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Related news

  • Artist’s impression of the L 98-59 planetary system. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

    An international team of astronomers, in which the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) has participated, has found an exoplanetary system formed by several planets similar to the inner planets of the Solar System, orbiting around the nearby star L 98-59. Among them there is a planet with half the mass of Venus -the lowest mass exoplanet ever measured using the radial velocity technique-, an oceanic planet, and a planet possibly within the habitable zone.

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  • Artistic impression of the super-Earth in orbit round the red dwarf star GJ-740. Credit: Gabriel Pérez Díaz, SMM (IAC).

    In recent years there has been an exhaustive study of red dwarf stars to find exoplanets in orbit around them. These stars have effective surface temperatures between 2400 and 3700 K (over 2000 degrees cooler than the Sun), and masses between 0.08 and 0.45 solar masses. In this context, a team of researchers led by Borja Toledo Padrón, a Severo Ochoa-La Caixa doctoral student at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), specializing in the search for planets around this type of stars, has discovered a super-Earth orbiting the star GJ 740, a red dwarf star situated some 36 light years

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  • TOI-178

    An international collaboration in which researchers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias take part, has discovered a unique planetary system made up of six exolplanets, of which five perform an unusual rhythmic dance, while they orbit their star. Even so, the sizes and masses of the planets are not in any ordered pattern. This finding, which is published today in the journal Astronomy & Astrophyisics, poses a challenge to current theories of planet formation.

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