Since the discovery of the first exoplanet, awareness and knowledge of these planets has significantly increased. They are almost considered commonplace, with most stars hosting planetary systems.
A striking discovery has also been the ‘Neptunian desert’: a lack of Neptune-like planets orbiting close to their host stars. Previous research suggested that when this occurs, these planets usually evaporate or are entirely disrupted due to the strong gravitational forces of the star. However, recently several planets were discovered inside the Neptunian desert, raising new questions for researchers about these planets’ origins and extreme outcomes of planet formation.
Led by Professor David Armstrong, in collaboration with research groups at the Universities of Geneva, Bern and Porto, the research project will analyse these newly discovered outliers, providing a benchmark for planetary formation theories. The team will also combine photometric and spectroscopic observations from multiple telescopes, including the NGTS observatory led by Warwick. to investigate the nature and origins of the planets found in the desert. Together, these results will help inform developing theories for exoplanet formation and evolution.
University of Warwick Professor and Lead Researcher on this project, David Armstrong, said: “This grant will allow us to build a dedicated team focused on solving the mystery of these desert planets. We hope that by studying these extreme exoplanets, we can shed light on the processes which formed our own Earth and Solar System.”
This research is funded by UKRI’s Frontier Research Guarantee Scheme, and was originally a proposal to the European Research Council.
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