The study of exoplanets aims to establish the preponderance and diversity of planetary systems in our galaxy, to understand how these systems form and evolve, to master the physics at play in their atmosphere and interior, and ultimately, to detect traces of life elsewhere in the Universe.
This is the main thrust of the work of Université de Montréal Professor David Lafrenière’s research group. Research is mainly carried out using direct imaging techniques at infrared wavelengths to detect new planets, and then measure their physical properties. To “see” these very faint planets at close proximity to their star, which is several million times brighter, we need to continually develop new observation and image processing techniques, and even build new instruments. With current technology, it is possible to detect gas giant planets with orbits the size of the outer solar system or larger.
In addition to direct planet imaging, David Lafrenière’s research group is interested in characterizing “hot Jupiter”-type planets using transit/eclipse spectro-photometry and transit timing. The group’s work also focuses on the study of brown dwarfs, stellar and substellar multiplicity, and the search for young, low-mass stars in the solar neighbourhood. David Lafrenière is Principal Investigator of the PESTO project.