Giant Planets are the most massive exoplanets out there (several times the mass of Jupiter!),
and during the first phases of their formation they are very hungry!
They are thought to eat (in jargon: accrete) lots and lots of the gas around them, feeding on the circumstellar disk and competing for resources even with their parent host star!
Observing this accretion phase is very important to understand the nature of these Giants, so I am trying to catch them in the act, and snatch a picture of their astronomical lunchtime!
I have 8 objetcs on my list, from Giant Planets to small binary stars, for which I am trying to observe the gas accretion phase.
Wish me luck!
With more than 3000 thousands planets discover so far, I'm sure you are thinking: why
care about finding more? Well, here's the thing: almost all of these planets have been discovered
with so-called "indirect methods", meaning that there is no actual image of them!
I am fascinated by the idea of actually taking a picture of these objects, and that's why my PhD project uses the Direct Imaging technique.
But it turned out that planets are shy! That's why we have to be more stubborn than them, and hunt them out! At the moments, there are several direct imaging projects trying to find as many exoplanets as possible.
I am part of two direct imaging surveys: the NACO-ISPY and the LBT-LIStEN survey.
Disks and planets are two faces of the same coin (somehow).
Planets are thought to form from the material of the disk, which is therefore often considered a 'planetary nursery'. At the same time, the planet (or companion) can shape the disk itself, due to gravitational influence, clearing out rings in its orbit, or dragging the disk material into complicated spiral patterns.
I am currently studying an intriguing system, where we found a low-mass stellar companion orbiting inside the gap between a massive A0 star and its debris disk.
It is a great occasion to expand our knowledge of planet-disk interaction!