Chris Mann is a PhD candidate working under the supervision of Dr. David Lafrenière. Beginning his studies at the Université de Montréal in September 2018, he is expecting to graduate in the spring of 2023. For his thesis project, he is working to modify and adapt existing instruments that were not originally designed to study exoplanets, and using them to do exactly that. One such instrument is the Dragonfly Telephoto array, a collection of 48 small cameras and lenses that all act together like one bigger telescope. Dragonfly was built to study very faint structures in galaxies. Another instrument is called NEOSSat, a small Canadian space telescope that was designed to monitor other satellites and near-Earth asteroids. He uses both these telescopes to detect and characterize exoplanet transits, the small decrease in a star’s brightness caused when an orbiting exoplanet blocks some of the starlight. The specific “shape” of how this starlight changes over time during the transit reveals a lot of information about the exoplanet.
His PhD project has extensively involved telescope operation, image processing, and photometric extraction. His exoplanet confirmation studies involve modelling time-series photometric light curves and radial velocity motions to extract key exoplanet parameters, including the planet’s size and mass. He has also been working to characterize hidden unseen planets based on their subtle effects on the exoplanets we do detect (i.e. transit timing variations and extra radial velocity accelerations).
Chris is also interested in many other aspects of exoplanet science, such as constructing large radial velocity campaigns, developing new exoplanet instruments, and characterizing exoplanet atmospheres. He is active in public outreach, giving talks to the public, grade-school classrooms, and university venues. He has mentored several student interns and enjoys teaching as well.