One of the most exciting astronomical developments in the past 15 years has been the discovery and characterization of extrasolar planets—planets in orbit around stars other than our Sun, a.k.a. “exoplanets.” Direct detection of gas-giant exoplanets is now becoming possible, opening the door to new avenues of understanding distinct from radial velocity and transit detections.
Infrared image of a giant planet and protoplanetary disk around the young, approximately solar mass star, PDS70. The star is at the center and is masked out in this image for clarity. The bright point source is the planet, with a mass estimated from its luminosity of several Jupiters. The ring of emission is scattered light from the dust particles from the disk. This image is from Muller et al. 2018 and is data taken with the ESO Very Large Telescope. We are currently analyzing ALMA observations of the dust and gas emission from the disk to study its properties and examine the planet-disk dynamical interaction.
Nader Haghighipour performs simulations of the evolution of extraterrestrial planetary systems, focussing on:
Protoplanetary migration in newly formed systems
Protoplanetary orbits around binary stars
The size of the habitable zone around single and double stars
He also uses ground-and space-based telescopes such as the Keck, Kepler and TESS telescopes to search for small super-Earths in the habitable zones of their host stars