Exoplanet discovery and characterisation - Rolling Grant Transfer/Re-issue

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Physics


The SuperWASP experiment is the most successful ground based exoplanet detection facility. After its recent upgrade it is now capable of discovering ice giant planets in short orbits and the data from its first 2 year run is now being ingested into the WASP archive. We will continue our successful exploitation of this data in our exoplanet discovery and characterisation programme and prepare for the the first data from our new world leading NGTS experiment. NGTS is designed for routine detection of ice-giants and its red- sensitivity means it will be the leading source of rocky super-Earth planets that are confirmable with current equipment. This will allow us to lead in understanding the most common types of planet and allow us to take the first steps in looking at the different classes of planet and their characteristics.

For our brightest planets we will conduct follow up observations that will allow us to understand their dynamical histories and take the first steps to characterise their atmospheres.

In addition we will study the architectures of exoplanetary systems and in particular we will characterise bright multi-planet and circumbinary systems. Through our collaborations this will allow us to place strong constraints on their evolutionary histories.

This proposal is to allow the transfer of the PI's current fEC from QUB to the University of Warwick where he has recently taken up a new position.

Planned Impact

Astronomy has always captured the attention of humans. Some of the deepest philosophical questions pertaining to our existence in the universe are perceived to be of (or at least related to) an astronomical nature. This gives us a massive advantage when compared to other scientific endevours. In no subject is this more true than exoplanets as their existence is bound up with the search for intelligent life in the universe - one of the mother questions of our existence. With this in mind we have found that the principles underlying exoplanet detection and bulk characterization are ideal subject matter to demonstrate basic physics in an exciting way and naturally lead in to discussions of habitability (both in the context of exoplanets and the Earth).

After recent NAM's the most popular news releases have invariable been those that are concerned with extrasolar planets. We are fortunate that the WASP project put UK astronomers at the forefront of this subject and the applicants have gained much experience with the media (radio, print and TV). This was recognized with the award of the 2010 Royal Society Exhibition "The detection of extra-terrestrial life and the consequences for science and society" where the applicants were active participants. The WASP project really grabbed both the national and international attention. At the international level the Project was received the accolade of one of the top ten discovery's in all of science in 2007 after the announcement/publication of WASP-3b (Pollacco et al, 2008, MNRAS 385, 1576). On a national stage, Pollacco, on behalf of the WASP Consortium, received the RAS Team Achievement Award for 2010.

NGTS will be the premiere transit experiment in the near/medium future and with science drivers that will make some of our most exciting discoveries of great public interest: NGTS exoplanets will be amongst the closest and potentially of rocky composition. Furthermore, NGTS planets will be prized targets for all future atmospheric characterization missions (including JWST). At a national level our demonstrated relationship with STFC Outreach and, of course, our universities will guarantee interest for all audiences.


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Anderson D (2013) Thermal emission at 3.6-8 µm from WASP-19b: a hot Jupiter without a stratosphere orbiting an active star in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Armstrong D (2013) Placing limits on the transit timing variations of circumbinary exoplanets in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Description Continued characterisation of large planets. These objects have the most accurately determined parameters of the population.
Exploitation Route used by theorists to understand the planet population.
Sectors Education