Skip to main content

Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Trinity Menu Trinity Search



You are here Research > Research Groups > Exoplanet Atmospheres > Research

Research

Our main area of interest is in observational astrophysics, primarily using optical and near-infrared telescopes, both ground- and space-based, to characterise extra-solar planets (or exoplanets for short). Exoplanets are simply planets around stars other than our Sun. Thousands of these planets have been discovered over the last few decades, and the next step in our understanding of them is is to look at their atmospheres to determine their compositions and the dominant physical processes that govern their formation and evolution.

In general, exoplanets are extremely challenging to observe as they are very faint and located right next to their extremely bright host stars. We mostly study transiting planets, those that periodically eclipse their host stars, using advanced observational and statistical techniques to disentangle the exoplanet's signal from its host star. This enables us to extract spectra of the exoplanet, which reveals a wealth of physical information on the planet. Currently, we are primarily working on giant, close-in exoplanets (called 'hot Jupiters'), but are pushing these techniques to smaller and smaller systems. Next-generation facilities such as the James Webb Space Telescope and the European-Extremely Large Telescope are expected to push us towards characterisation of rocky exoplanets. Even the detection of 'biomarkers' (signs of life) on distant planets might soon be possible.