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Pulsating exoplanet hosts in the TESS era

Carlsbergfondets postdoc-stipendier i Danmark

What

My project is about extrasolar planets (exoplanets) and the stars that they orbit with a special focus on host star showing "star quakes". I will primarily study the exoplanet population that will be uncovered by the NASA TESS mission, which will be launched early next year. Specifically, I will look for exoplanets about 2-4 times the size of Earth that orbit close to their host stars, since these exoplanets seem to be extremely rare. This is thought to be due to their proximity to the star; they orbit so close-in that they have lost their atmospheres due to the intense star light "boiling" the atmospheres off. Furthermore, I will investigate the host stars themselves using both information from star quakes and the signature of near-surface convection.

Why

By studying exoplanets which could have lost their atmospheres due to evaporation, we can gain valuable insights into a process that impacts the formation and evolution of planetary systems. In turn, understanding how planetary systems are created and evolve over time is important, for instance, for establishing how common rocky planets like Earth are in the Universe. Understanding the host stars is important too as they play a major role for the planets around them. Not only can they be responsible for the stripping of planetary atmospheres, they also largely determine the temperature of the planets impacting the habitability, and they can even engulf their planets as they evolve. Thus, for example knowing how our Sun will evolve can teach us about the future of our solar system.

How

Exploiting the synergy between exoplanet research and asteroseismology is at the hearth of my research project. I will use asteroseismology (the study of "star quakes") to precisely pin down fundamental host star properties, such as the size, for many systems. For other stars where quakes cannot be seen, I will develop a new method to determine stellar sizes based on the surface signature of convection. The acquired precise knowledge about the host stars will then be used to compute precise planetary properties. Additionally, I will study the bulk composition of some of the particularly interesting exoplanets to learn about what these worlds look like.

SSR

The thirst for space exploration has led to the development of new technology and novel materials, something which has had obvious benefits to society, and something that, without the drive from dedicated scientists doing fundamental research, likely would not have happened. Furthermore, mankind has always sought answers to whether we are alone in the Universe, and if not, what life may look like elsewhere. While my research can not provide answers to these particular questions, it can help advance our knowledge on the "foreign worlds" around us. Thus, I will be ideally placed to take active part in outreach activities, which revolve around exoplanets and life in the Universe. This will also allow me to interact with young people and inspire them to select a STEM education.