Most young stars form surrounded by protoplanetary disks, clouds of gas and dust which provide the birthplaces for planetary systems such as our own. But the details of exactly how particles coagulate together to form planets remain unclear. By imaging such disks with the Hubble Space Telescope and large ground-based telescopes, I and my collaborators seek to measure the physical conditions within such disks, determine the properties of the dust grains and larger bodies within them, and assess the state of planet-building in each system.
This project would involve analyzing data we have in hand (from Hubble, Keck, and other telescopes) using a variety of numerical models and other codes, to measure and understand the properties of several of these solar-systems-in-the-making. The tools and techniques are well developed and it should be feasible to make substantial progress over the summer. Circumstellar disk research is today a very active area, both at STScI where there are several staff working in this area, plus active collaboration with groups at NASA Goddard, the University of California, and elsewhere. Students eagerly sought!
Interested in high-tech astronomical instrumentation and the study of extrasolar planets? We're poised to make major advances in the direct imaging and spectroscopy of nearby exoplanets through a new generation of advanced adaptive optics instruments dedicated to high contrast imaging. The Gemini Planet Imager instrument is now undergoing final assembly and test in California, and is expected to see first light at Gemini South this coming winter. Our exoplanet imaging group at STScI is playing a major role in this international collaboration, including leading the development of the data analysis software system.
We're now seeking one or more students to work with us on analysis of instrument test data, to collaborate in development of state-of-the-art automated software tools for image analysis and planet detection, and (starting this winter!) the commissioning and operation of this new instrument. If interested, there are opportunities to travel to Santa Cruz CA for part of this summer to work with the GPI instrument hardware there at the Lab for Adaptive Optics, and to attend the Summer School on Adaptive Optics held there in August. The exoplanet imaging group at ST is rapidly expanding (currently three ST research faculty members, four postdocs and students, with at least two new postdocs starting this coming fall), and we're currently building a new optical laboratory facility for exoplanet space mission technology development. Please join us in the great adventure of seeking out new worlds!
Last modified on 2012 April 11