In the last 7 years, the world has witnessed the discovery of more than 100 extra solar planets orbiting stars other than the sun by the indirect radial velocity technique. A leap forward in the study of extrasolar planetary systems will be possible with the new generation of optical and infrared interferometric instruments (VLTI), which will enable for the first time the direct detections of planets, the determination of their fundamental physical parameters, and the detection of very young planets. An important role will play differential interferometric methods, which exploit wavelength-dependent astrometric information of the planet/star system and will therefore be more sensitive. The limiting factor of this method is dispersion effects in the air, which have to be quantified before the long- term goal, differential phase surveys for extrasolar planets, can be reached. The presented project aims at a test of the differential phase method and at the direct detection of planets by means of interferometric observations with instruments at the VLTI. Test targets, among others, will be extremely young, very low-mass stars, which are ideal, since planets around them would be still hot and self-luminous because of their youthness and therefore the problem of dynamic range is far less sever for them than for solarlike star/planet systems. There is a critical need in Europe for researchers trained both in astrophysics and in the technologies underlying sophisticated instrumentation. The training / mobility period proposed here would introduce the applicant to a cutting-edge astronomical technique (optical interferometry), while widening her experience in an exciting astrophysical topic (brown dwarfs and extrasolar planets). Both fields are growing very rapidly, so that there will be an excellent chance for her to continue her career along the same lines of research.
Fields of science
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