INPhINIT Incoming PhD: "Searching Planetary Systems in Death Suns"

  Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas   Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía   Excelencia Severo Ochoa   HR Excellence in Research
February, 4th 2020
(1) Towards the understanding of the planetary systems

The search for planetary systems around stars other than the Sun (i.e., exoplanets) has become one of the major topics in modern Astrophysics. The exoplanet research group at the IAA has led the construction of CARMENES, a spectrograph currently in operation at the 3.5m telescope of the CAHA Observatory specially designed to “hunt” exoplanets orbiting M dwarf stars in the habitability zone. One of the main objectives of the Severo Ochoa program at the IAA is the scientific exploitation of CARMENES to detect a whole population of exoplanets and to characterize their atmospheres.

Exoplanets have been found around many different types of stars, with biases depending on the detection method towards giant planets (photometric transits), planets in close orbits (radial velocity studies of Sun like stars), and planets in the habitable zone (radial velocity studies of M dwarf stars). Only exoplanets around white dwarfs, the final fate of low- and intermediate-mass stars including our Sun, are missing so far. Theoretical models predict the survival of planetary systems through the evolution of these stars along the red giant phases and during the short-lived planetary nebula phase. White dwarfs with gaseous debris disks are very promising candidates to host planetary systems whose detection would probe the relevant parameters for the late survival of planets to investigate the final fate of our own Solar System.


The PhD student will join the IAA to undertake a research project under the supervision of Dr. Martin A Guerrero aiming at the acquisition of a PhD in Astrophysics. The main scientific task to pursue would be the exploitation of large-area photometric surveys to identify a sample of white dwarfs with gaseous debris disks. Gaseous debris disks around white dwarfs form as planetesimals are disrupted when their orbits are distorted by giant planets. Gaseous debris disks thus provide invaluable information of the dynamics of planetary systems remnants around white dwarfs. They can be detected through emission of the Ca II λλ849.8,854.2,866.2 nm red triplet, but only 10 systems are known so far. The Javalambre-Photometric Surveys JPLUS and JPAS will image large sky areas through sophisticated sets of broad-, intermediate- and narrow-band filters using the Javalambre Astronomical Observatory 0.8-m and 2.5-m telescopes, respectively. The JPLUS filter J0861 and JPAS filters J0850, J0860, and J0870 can actually be very sensitive to emission excess in the Ca II red triplet. Indeed, preliminary inspection of JPLUS data suggests a high efficiency in detecting these systems. The PhD student will exploit JPAS and JPLUS data to search for and monitor new gaseous debris disks around white dwarfs.

Period (months): 
36 months

IAA is an equal opportunity institution. Applications to this program by female scientists are particularly encouraged.

Should you need any further information or assistance concerning the application, please contact the IAA at severoochoa[at]