Extrasolar Planets and Atmospheres
Our expertise lies in the detection and precise characterisation of extrasolar planets and in the modelling of planetary atmospheres, with a focus on the conditions that make planets habitable. We make observations (mostly from space) to gain insight into bulk and atmospheric properties of exoplanets and planets in our solar system. We develop new techniques, models and theories to better understand habitable conditions and the remote detection of biosignatures. We design and operate exoplanet space missions and scientifically exploit the data acquired.
In order to address questions concerning planetary formation, evolution, and habitability, we combine the analysis of observational data with a state-of-the-art coupled climate-photochemistry-biogeochemistry atmospheric model (1D-TERRA). Our research provides insight into the interior structure and atmospheric properties of planets. We perform comparative studies of planets in and out of our solar system, paying particular attention to the atmospheres of (early) Earth, Venus, and Mars.
Our scientific work is accomplished within international cooperation networks. Our main projects are PLATO, ESA’s M3 mission in the Cosmic Vision programme; CHEOPS, ESA’s mission dedicated to the precise characterisation of known planetary systems; NGTS, the Next Generation Transit Survey, a set of 12 telescopes in the Atacama desert in Chile, searching for small planets around cool dwarfs; the KESPRINT collaboration to characterise extrasolar planets detected by the NASA missions K2 and TESS; and LIFE, the project involving a direct imaging space telescope to characterise the atmospheres of Earth-sized planets.