Thursday 18th March 2021 at 7.30 p.m. "ARIEL and ALIEN Worlds: Enabling planetary science across light-years" presented by Dr Chris Pearson, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory - STFC
Less than 30 years ago the only planets known to exist were those found within our own Solar System. From the first confirmed discovery in 1992 - of a pair of exotic planets orbiting around a dead star - the field of exoplanetary science has undergone nothing short of a revolution. Currently we stand at a staggering 4000+ confirmed discoveries of planets outside our Solar System. What we have found is that, as usual, our Universe is more diverse that we could possibly imagine, throwing up a menagerie of weird and wonderful planets such as Jupiter sized worlds orbiting ridiculously close to their parent stars, worlds made of ice, lave and even diamond, to rogue planets drifting alone in the vastness of space. With such a treasure trove of discovery, the next logical step is to characterise the properties of these systems. We are at the dawn of a new age in exoplanet research where for the first-time large samples of 1000+ exoplanets are not only being detected but also characterised by analysing the composition of their atmospheres. The European Space Agency's ARIEL mission, due for launch in 2028, will become the leading facility in this characterisation process.
Dr Pearson's PhD was in "Galaxy Evolution and Cosmology" with Professor Michael Rowan-Robinson Imperial College, London. Since then, Chris has worked on cosmological galaxy surveys at infrared wavelengths for both ground based telescopes and space borne missions. He worked for 7 years in Japan on the AKARI space telescope before moving to the UK to RAL Space to work on the SPIRE instrument on the Herschel Space Observatory where he leads the team that produced all the nice maps from SPIRE. Chris now works on the ARIEL mission searching for exoplanets and the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope, the largest scientific facility ever to be built.