PhD position: Density of extrasolar planets (University of Geneva)
Project leader: François Bouchy (Francois.Bouchy@unige.ch)
Exoplanets that transit their host star are a real gold mine because they are the only ones for which it is possible to precisely measure their fundamental properties. Combining photometric transit with radial velocity measurements yields the exact mass, radius and bulk density of a planet, allowing their internal structure and composition to be determined. The confirmation and mass determination with radial velocities is however very challenging and so far the transition from Neptune-like objects, to intermediate-mass planets with or without a thick gaseous envelope, and ultimately to rocky planets similar in composition to the Earth, is still poorly understood and constrained.
The main focus of the PhD will be to study the density of exoplanets, putting specific efforts on the low-mass range of exoplanets including Neptune and super-Earth planets. For that purpose, the applicant will actively contribute to radial-velocity follow-up programs of transiting candidates from ground-based photometric surveys SWASP and NGTS and from space missions K2 and TESS using CORALIE, SOPHIE, HARPS, HARPS-N, SPIROU and ESPRESSO facilities. The PhD will also be involved in the data-reduction software optimization, and will participate to the tests and validation of SPIROU and NIRPS near-infrared spectrographs.
The Department of Astronomy of the University of Geneva offers a modern and vibrant work environment, with a wide range of activities including theory, numerical simulations, observations and instrumental developments in the domains of exoplanets, stellar physics, galactic dynamics, observational cosmology and high-energy astrophysics. The exoplanet team is especially well renown, with strong involvement in planet detection, the determination of the planet physical properties, the characterization of planet atmospheres, and the development of an associated world-class instrumentation. We are also co-leading the Swiss-wide National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) PlanetS, dedicated to the study of the origin, evolution, and characterization of planets inside and outside our Solar System. The applicant will also have the opportunity to develop collaborations with members of PlanetS.
Requirements: The applicant is required to have a Master in astrophysics. Proficiency in C and Python programming is considered as a plus.
Start: The position is available immediately and a rapid start by the student would be appreciated.
Duration: The position is funded for 4 years.
Salary: This position is founded by Swiss National Science Foundation with a gross salary around 50’000 CHF a year.
How to apply: Interested applicants should send (in a single pdf file) their curriculum vitae, a motivation letter, the grades obtained at university, names of people who can be contacted for a letter of recommendation, and the contact details to Prof. F. Bouchy, University of Geneva, Francois.Bouchy@unige.ch, before 31th October 2016.
The University is actively seeking to increase the numbers of women in physics and hence women are strongly encouraged to apply.
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