The 170 extra-solar giant planets discovered by indirect methods in the past 10 years have considerably changed our understanding of how planetary systems form and evolve. In order to investigate the composition of these planets and the physics of their atmospheres, direct imaging is now necessary, but faces two main challenges: the very small angular separation and the huge contrast between the planets and their parent stars. The same challenges apply to the study of circumstellar debris disks, which are the remaining traces of the planet formation processes.
This research project aims at providing the first resolved images and spectra of the inner part of extra-solar planetary systems. The Very Large Telescope Interferometer will be used with its infrared instrument AMBER to reach this ambitious goal, thanks to its high angular resolution and high contrast imaging capabilities. Advanced observation procedures and data reduction techniques will be developed for that specific goal.
The research will be performed at the Grenoble Observatory (LAOG) within a group focusing on planet formation and evolution theories, with the support of the instrumental group, which developed the AMBER instrument. Based on our observations, we will deduce critical physical parameters of extra-solar planets, such as their temperature and composition, and study the dynamics of their atmosphere. We will also study the dynamical processes leading to the replenishment of debris disks, such as cometary activity, asteroidal collisions and interactions with planets.
In addition, we will contribute to the development of the future VLTI near-infrared spectro-imaging instrument, which should replace AMBER around 2010. The science case of the new instrument will be developed, benefiting from the study conducted in the frame of the AMBER instrument. This part of the project will also largely rely on the advanced instrumental model that I have developed for the VLTI during my PhD studies.
Call for proposal
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