Jonathan Gagné, a doctoral student at the Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx) at the Université de Montréal and a student member of the Centre for Research in Astrophysics of Quebec (CRAQ), is the first Quebecer to receive the prestigious Carl Sagan Fellowship.
The Carl Sagan Postdoctoral Fellowship Program supports outstanding young scientists to conduct independent research related to the science goals of NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program. The primary goal of this program is to discover and characterize planetary systems and Earth-like exoplanets around nearby stars. Fellows receive financial support to conduct research at a host institution in the United States for up to three years.
Jonathan Gagné’s PhD project involves searching for brown dwarfs and low-mass stars that are members of kinematic associations in the solar neighborhood. Kinematic associations are groups of relatively young stars (10 to 150 million years). They formed within the same molecular cloud, their few million years of age were sufficient to disperse most of the interstellar gas initially present in their neighborhood and to start moving away from each other. However, it is still possible to observe that they belong to a kinematic association, since they still have very similar velocities across the galaxy (hence the name “kinematic association”).
The benefits of Jonathan Gagné’s PhD project are numerous, ranging from understanding the atmospheres of gaseous exoplanets, which are particularly difficult to study because their host star is typically very close and blinds the instruments, to determining the targets of choice for future exoplanetary systems, to enabling population statistics to be performed to better understand the initial mass function (i.e., the histogram of the number of exoplanets or stars as a function of mass).
Once his thesis is submitted to iREx, Jonathan will continue his study at the Canergie Insitute for Science in Washington. There he will attempt to explore the link between the atmospheres of brown dwarfs and giant exoplanets in order to test his scientific hypotheses.
The iREx warmly congratulates Jonathan Gagné for obtaining this prestigious scholarship.
Link to the NASA Announcement: http://nexsci.caltech.edu/sagan/2015postdocRecipients.shtml