Marie-Eve is fascinated by nature and people. Originally from Donnacona, in the Portneuf region, she spent her childhood reading, making herbariums, concocting potions with flowers and plants, and collecting the treasures she found while strolling along the St. Lawrence shoreline. From an early age, she was fascinated by great scientific and philosophical questions. This led her to pursue graduate studies in astrophysics. Her favourite question: “Are we alone in the Universe?
Now Scientific Education and Public Outreach Coordinator for the Trottier Institute for Exoplanet Research, Marie-Eve designs and contributes to a number of initiatives that enable the entire iREx team to connect with people of all ages to talk about the Universe we live in. Marie-Eve is particularly proud of the initiatives she has contributed to for children and teenagers, such as La petite école de l’espace for 3 to 8 year-olds and their families, or the Exoplanets in the classroom project, for primary and secondary school children and the school staff who work with them.
It’s important to her that everyone can marvel at the immensity of space, and better understand the uniqueness of our Solar System, planet Earth and its ecosystem, by comparing them to other planetary systems and other planets. As an astronomer, she sees the Earth as a small rocky planet lost in the immensity of space, infinitely rich in the diversity of environments and living beings it shelters. She hopes that sharing this point of view can help both young and old to realize the richness and importance of our planet for humanity, and to preserve its integrity.
During her doctoral studies, completed in 2016 under the supervision of René Doyon and Étienne Artigau, Marie-Eve was trying to detect gas giant planets around the smallest stars (spectral types K and M) with the direct imaging method. She led two observing programs on the Gemini South telescope, targeting stars recently identified by the iREx team as young (probable members of young associations).
This program led to the discovery of GU Piscium b, a particularly strange exoplanet several times the mass of Jupiter (a “Super-Jupiter”!), and about 2,000 times further from its star than the Earth is from the Sun. These results have also allowed us to determine the frequency of such planetary mass companions at great distances around low-mass stars. The discovery of these objects, although very rare, is proving highly interesting, as their study provides a better understanding of both exoplanets of similar mass, which are often more difficult to study because they are much closer to their star, and brown dwarfs in the field, which are of similar temperature but much older. Her thesis, Recherche et caractérisation d’exoplanètes à grande séparation autour d’étoiles jeunes de faible masse (Searching for and characterizing large-separation exoplanets around young, low-mass stars), can be consulted on the web.
At Master’s level (2008-2010), she worked under the supervision of François Wesemael and Robert Lamontagne, an astrophysicist with expertise in science communication, on astrobiology, the science that studies the possibility of life elsewhere in the Universe. More precisely, she was trying to answer the following question: “If an extraterrestrial civilization were to observe the Earth, could it know that it was inhabited?” To do this, she studied the spectrum of Earth by observing the Earthshine at the Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic. The unresolved reflection spectrum obtained that way is similar to what will eventually be obtained for terrestrial exoplanets. She determined that it would be possible to detect clues to life… but very difficult! Her dissertation, Variation des biomarqueurs dans le spectre visible non résolu de la Terre (Biomarker Variation in Earth’s Unresolved Visible Spectrum), is available online.