The study of exoplanets has many objectives: to determine the prevalence and diversity of planetary systems in our galaxy, understand how these systems form and evolve, understand the physics involved in their atmospheres and interiors and, ultimately, to detect traces of life elsewhere in the universe.
The work of the research group directed by Professor Lafrenière is primarily performed using infrared imaging techniques that make it possible to detect the planets directly, and then measure their physical properties. To successfully “see” these very faint planets located right next to their host star, which can be several million times brighter, it is necessary to continually develop new observation and image processing techniques and even to build new instruments. With the current technology, it is possible to detect gas giant planets with orbits of the outer solar system’s size or larger.
In addition to direct imaging of planets, David Lafrenière’s research group is also interested in the characterization of “hot Jupiter” planets by using transit/eclipse spectrophotometry and transit timing. The group is also involved in studies of brown dwarfs, in stellar and substellar multiplicity studies, and in the detection and characterization of new young low-mass stars in the solar neighborhood. David Lafrenière is the principal investigator for the PESTO project.