The detection of hundreds of extrasolar planets orbiting other solar-like stars opened the window to a new field of astrophysics. Many projects to search for Earth-like planets are currently under way, using a huge battery of telescopes and instruments. New instrumentation is also being developed towards this goal for use in both ground- and space-based facilities.
Since planets come as an output of the star formation process, the study of the stars hosting planets is of great importance. The stellar-planet connection is strengthened by the fact that most of the exoplanets were discovered using a Doppler radial-velocity technique, where the gravitational influence of the planet on the star and not the planet itself is actually measured.
The EXOEarths program aims at doing frontier research to explore:
These goals will improve our capacity to detect, study, and characterize new very low mass extra-solar planets. The results of this project will have a strong impact on the exploitation of future instruments, like the ESPRESSO spectrograph for the VLT. They will also be of extreme importance to current state-of-the-art planet-search projects aiming at the discovery of other Earths, in particular those making use of the radial-velocity method.
The PI: Nuno C. Santos