The main aim of the proposed project is to search for planets around nearby stars that are of a hitherto ignored stellar type using newly developed technology and methodology to improve our understanding of planet formation and evolution. The specific focus will be on the lowest mass stars. Stars of this type are a crucial sample of potential planet hosts because they can be used to illuminate the correlation between stellar mass and planet formation, are the most numerous kind of stars in the galaxy, and allow lower mass planets to be identified for a given level of observational precision. The technique employed will be the radial velocity method, but applied for the first time with high precision to the near infrared (nIR) spectral regime in order to sidestep the problems of stellar faintness and activity. Observation time at the ESO VLT for the survey amounting to 33 nights over two years has already been granted to the applicant. A new gas absorption cell designed by the applicant will be used with an existing instrument to measure high precision nIR radial velocities for the first time. The ancillary goals of the project will be to do follow-up study of any detected planets using complementary observational techniques, elucidate the advantages and disadvantages of nIR radial velocities, and explore additional research enabled by the methods and technology developed for the core program. The applicant possess the unique combination of experiences necessary to carry out this full program. The Institute for Astrophysics of the University Goettingen is the proper location for such a project due to the experience of its staff, access to facilities, and international collaborations. The main impacts of the program will be demonstration of a new planet detection technique, broadening the research scope of a recognized node of extrasolar planet science in the EU, and the first scientific data about planets around the lowest mass stars.
Call for proposal
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