Research Projects

Our observational research is mainly divided between two areas. We use transit observations to study exoplanet atmospheres, and we use radial velocity observations to detect and measure the masses of new planets.

Transit Spectroscopy

When planets eclipse (transit) their host stars, we can measure their masses and radii, and probe their atmospheres as well. This unique opportunity makes transiting planets an important laboratory for learning about the detailed characteristics of exoplanets. Our work in this area is focussed on atmospheric studies using spectroscopic techniques, so-called "transit spectroscopy". We aim to reveal the atmospheric compositions and physical conditions of exoplanets ranging from the hottest hot Jupiters to rocky planets in the habitable zones of their host stars.

We are currently carrying out transit spectroscopy programs using the Hubble, Spitzer, Keck, Gemini, and IRTF telescopes. We are eagerly awaiting the launch of JWST, with involvement in two approved Cycle 1 programs: The Transiting Exoplanet Community Early Release Science Program and GTO program 1274. We are also involved in the european ARIEL mission through a NASA contribution called CASE.

Atmospheric metallicity vs plant mass plot with exoplanet measurements from our group. Over the last few years we have pursued measurements from a wide range of diagnostics, using multiple chemical species and data obtained with ground- and space-based facilities.

Radial Velocity

We have recently installed a new radial velocity spectrograph called MAROON-X at the 8m Gemini-N telescope. Over the next few years we will be carrying out a program focused on confirming and measuring the masses of small transiting planets in and near the habitable zones of mid to late M dwarfs using this instrument. Our goal is to identify the best targets for JWST and ELT atmospheric studies aimed at deepening our understanding of planetary habitability.

MAROON-X installed in its environmental control chamber 45 feet below the 8m Gemini North telescope.