Professor David Lafrenière’s research group focuses on the study of exoplanets and aims to establish the preponderance and diversity of planetary systems in our galaxy, to understand how these systems form and evolve, to understand better the physics involved in their atmosphere and interior, and ultimately, to detect traces of life elsewhere in the Universe.
Current research focuses on the characterization of exoplanet atmospheres using transmission and emission spectroscopy. For planets transiting in front of their star, this technique allows to detect and measure the abundance of molecules and atoms constituting their atmosphere, to detect the presence of clouds and to study their dynamics. This work is carried out using new infrared spectrographs with very high spectral resolution installed on ground-based telescopes (SPIRou, NIRPS) and the new JWST space telescope. David Lafrenière is Principal Investigator of the large NEAT (NIRISS Exploration of the Atmospheres of Transiting exoplanets) survey with JWST, which targets 16 exoplanets of various masses and temperatures to characterize their atmospheres.
David Lafrenière’s research group is also interested in direct imaging techniques at infrared wavelengths to detect new planets and measure their physical properties. To be able to “see” these very faint planets that are very close to their star several million times brighter, it is necessary to constantly develop new observation and image processing techniques and even to build new instruments. The group’s work also focuses on the study of brown dwarfs, on the study of stellar and substellar multiplicity, and on the search for young low-mass stars in the solar neighborhood.
David Lafrenière is director of the Centre for Research in Astrophysics of Quebec (CRAQ).