The assembled 6-metre primary mirror for the James Webb Space Telescope to be launched in 2021. This observatory will characterise extrasolar planets for the first time over their full luminous range through coronagraphy and spectroscopy in the mid-infrared.
Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

Characterising exoplanetary systems with JWST

Supervisor: Dr Sasha Hinkley

Most of our knowledge of the characteristics of extrasolar planets has come from studies of massive, Jupiter-like exoplanets transiting the face of their host star on very close orbits. However, the study of exoplanets on very wide orbits through the use of coronagraphs will enable direct imaging and spectroscopy, serving as an extremely powerful method for planet characterisation going forward. Despite this advantage, characterising this population of extrasolar planets at wavelengths longer than 5 microns has so far proved completely out of reach. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope to be launched in 2021, will be the first-ever observatory to observe exoplanets over their full luminous range.

This PhD project will focus on preparing for, and utilising data from, our approved 52-hour JWST Early Release Science Program ("High Contrast Imaging of Exoplanets and Exoplanetary Systems with JWST"), currently scheduled to be executed in late 2021. Our program will utilise all four JWST instruments, obtaining imaging and spectroscopy for two exoplanets and one circumstellar debris disc out to mid-infrared wavelengths. Opportunities will exist for the PhD student to become involved in data simulations, post-processing and analysis from actual mission data, as well as prepare for future JWST observing cycles. The student may also have opportunities to work with international collaborators located in the United States and Europe.

For more details on this project please contact Dr Sasha Hinkley.