One of the most exciting topics in modern astronomy is the discovery and characterization of exoplanets — planets in orbit around stars other than our Sun. IfA astronomers pursue studies of gas-giant, ice-giant, and rocky planets using the latest ground-based and space-based observatories.
Planet Formation, Evolution, and Habitability
Daniel Huber studies the fundamental properties of stars and stellar populations in our galaxy, including the discovery and characterization of exoplanets using the transit and radial velocity methods. He is the former co-chair of the Stellar Properties Working Group for the NASA Kepler Mission and holds leadership positions within the TESS Mission, including as a steering committee member of the TESS Asteroseismic Science Consortium (TASC) and member of the TESS Spectroscopic Steering Committee. His work has been supported by NASA, NSF and the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, and he is the recipient of a NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, and the University of Hawaii Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Research.
Imaged Exoplanets and Brown Dwarfs
Michael Liu conducts direct studies of gas-giant exoplanets and brown dwarfs to discover such objects, characterize their properties, and probe their formation. He is especially well known for such work using wide-field sky surveys and adaptive optics on the largest ground-based telescopes. He has led/co-led 3 major international science campaigns, including the first large exoplanet imaging survey (the Gemini NICI Planet-Finding Campaign) and the ongoing Hawaii Infrared Parallax Program. He is co-PI for the upcoming Keck All-Sky Precision AO (KAPA) system and co-lead for its planned key science program on young exoplanets. Support for his work has come from NSF, NASA, and the Moore Foundation. He has been awarded a Hubble Fellowship, an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, and the University of Hawaii Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Research.
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.
Exoplanet studies inevitably connect with other active areas of IfA research, including Instrumentation, the Solar System, and Stars. Faculty with overlapping research interests include:
- Mark Chun (adaptive optics technology)
- Klaus Hodapp (IR detectors)
- Karen Meech (solar system small bodies & astrobiology)
- David Tholen (solar system small bodies)
- Jennifer van Saders (stellar characterization)