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Exoplanets and planet formation

At the Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy we study young stars and planet formation from protoplanetary discs. We also investigate fully formed planets around more mature stars. Eventually we hope to address the key question of how many places in the universe might harbour life.

Example of a protoplanetary disk

A key element of studying young (albeit usually lower-mass) stars is that it enables us to study all stages of planet formation, from planet-forming discs, to dust and debris discs and the youngest protoplanets, to finding and characterising fully formed planets and planetary systems around more mature stars. Eventually this addresses the key question of how many places in the universe might harbour life. As high-resolution and ultra-high contrast techniques evolve, the study of exoplanetary atmospheres has begun to be possible, greatly enhancing our ability to judge habitability, and perhaps ultimately habitation of exoplanets.

As high-resolution and ultra-high contrast techniques evolve, the power of these studies increases greatly. Most recently, with the study of exoplanetary atmospheres we have greatly enhanced what we can learn about other potentially habitable planetary systems. As we gain more observations we can improve our theoretical models. We work in close collaboration with de Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and with SRON in the 'Are we Alone?' project.

The API disk and planet formation research group focus on evolution of protoplanetary disks to all stages of planet formation. Specifically, in the past years, significant results have been achieved in understanding the chemistry, geometry and dynamics of planet-forming disks through theoretical modelling and imaging and spectroscopy campaigns. The recently established exoplanet group has pursued research into the dynamics and chemistry of exoplanet atmospheres. In particular, the technique of high-resolution spectroscopy, by which atmosphere analysis with present and future observational facilities – is one of the key areas of expertise in this group. Theoretical work, co-opting the Origins expertise, will include so-called retrieval: the precision diagnosis of exoplanets atmospheres from their observed spectra, and make strides in connecting the properties of planets to their formation mechanisms. 

Keywords

Exoplanets, young stars, planet formation, protoplanetary discs, atmospheres, Earth-like planets

Facilities

Now: VLT, HST, WHT, Kepler, TESS

Future: E-ELT, JWST

Leading Scientists

 

Dr. J.M.L.B. (Jean-Michel) Desert

Faculty of Science

Anton Pannekoek Institute of Astronomy

Prof. dr. C. (Carsten) Dominik

Faculty of Science

Anton Pannekoek Institute of Astronomy

Dr. A. (Antonija) Oklopčić

Faculty of Science

Anton Pannekoek Institute of Astronomy