Detection and Characterisation of Extrasolar Planets
I am PI of a long term effort to discover and characterise benchmark extrasolar planets (aka. exoplanets) in the southern hemisphere. The main goal is to detect short period transiting planets around bright stars where follow-up ground and space-based analysis can lead to further breakthroughs into the physics of exoplanetary atmospheres. In addition, we also aim to study and detect the lowest mass planets, down into the Earth-mass regime. We employ the radial-velocity technique to detect such systems, utilising instruments such as the HARPS spectrograph. HARPS is shown to be stable down to around 80cm/s in the long term on real stars and we aim to make use of such precision to detect planets down into the low mass rocky regime.
The Calan-Hertfordshire Extrasolar Planet Search (CHEPS) has contributing collaborators in Chile, the UK and Poland, with publications already accepted, like the discovery of a companion to the star HD191760, which is either an eccentric brown dwarf in the desert or an example of the first extreme-Jovian deuterium burning planet (Jenkins et al. 2009, MNRAS, 398, 911; see figure). This result was announced as a press release in the popular UK astronomy magazine Astronomy Now. We also perform system stability tests to look for hidden planets in the data, or regions where other planets could be located.
I am also a member of the Anglo-Australian Planet Search, an international collaboration setup to detect planets around Sun-like stars in the southern hemisphere. Currently we have detected over 30 planets ranging from planets like Jupiter to short period low-mass rocky planets (see the Exoplanet Encyclopedia).