Exoplanet Research

Welcome to the pages of the Exoplanet Research team.

Exoplanetary research is one of the most rapidly developing fields in modern science, with the discovery of thousands of worlds beyond the confines of our own Solar System.  Drawing upon the breadth of expertise in the Physics and Astronomy Department of the University of Leicester, the Exoplanet Research Team is involved in a wide-ranging scientific programme at the forefront of this field.

 

Credits: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

The University of Leicester has 7 academic members of staff (2 of whom hold grants from the European Research Council) and 4 postdoctoral researchers working in fields related to exoplanetary science. We are one of the founding members of the Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS), and are part of the JWST MIRI instrument team.  Our research benefits from Leicester’s strong heritage in observational astronomy, theoretical astrophysics, Earth observation and the exploration of atmospheres, surfaces, ionospheres and magnetospheres within our own Solar System.

 

Research topics include:

 

  • Formation and evolution of exoplanets looking in particular at how protoplanetary discs shape young planetary systems. (contact: Dr Richard Alexander PI of the ERC Consolidator Grant project "Building planetary systems: linking architectures with formation (BuildingPlanS)”).
  • Brown Dwarf observations and theory, in particular irradiated brown dwarfs (contact: Dr. Sarah Casewell)
  • Numerical simulations exploring the dynamics of protoplanetary discs, and how planets form and evolve within them (contact: Dr. Chris Nixon)
  • Planets around white dwarfs (contact: Dr Matt Burleigh)
  • Detection and Characterisation of exoplanets using photometry, particularly using NGTS. (contact: Dr Mike Goad, Dr Matt Burleigh).
  • Exoplanet atmospheres characterisation:  Inversion of spectroscopy from exoplanet transits and directly-imaged worlds to characterise their thermal structure, global composition and aerosol properties (contact:  Dr Leigh Fletcher)
  • Exoplanetary Magnetospheres and Aurorae (contact: Dr Jonathan Nichols)
  • Gravitational Instability theory of planet formation and super-migration of planets from ~ 100 au down to 0.1 au, including population synthesis models for the upcoming PLATO mission (contact: Prof. Sergei Nayakshin).
  • Host-star properties: the active environment of the exoplanets. Particular areas of interest include the hot outer atmosphere of the stars, as observed from X-rays through ultraviolet wavelengths, and consequences for exoplanetary systems (contact: Dr John Pye, Dr Jonathan Nichols)

 

Please contact the individuals above for further information about opportunities for exoplanetary research at the University of Leicester.

 

 

Missions and Ground-Based Programmes:

Members of Leicester’s Exoplanet Research Team are collaborating on the following international programmes:

  • Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS).
  • ARIEL – the Atmospheric Remote-sensing Exoplanet Large-survey, a mission proposed to ESA’s Medium-Class M4 competition.
  • James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) – part of the MIRI instrument team.
  • Twinkle
  • Extremely Large Telescope (ELT)

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