The research undertaken within the Planetary Research Laboratory covers a wide range of disciplines and may be broadly categorized into the topics of Detection, Characterization, and Habitability. The below diagram summarizes some topics within each category.

Below are examples of research projects within the group.

  • Detection of Exoplanets: Searches for exoplanets from this group use radial velocity and photometric data utilizing the microlensing, transit, and doppler techniques.
  • Exoplanet Habitability: This project calculates Habitable Zones for all the known exoplanet host stars, including confirmed exoplanets and Kepler candidates. The data and figures are updated regularly and made available to the community via the Habitable Zone Gallery.
  • The TERMS Project: The Transit Ephemeris Refinement and Monitoring Survey (TERMS) both refines the orbits and searches for transits of known radial velocity planets. This is a multi-institutional collaboration which utilises many telescopes including Keck, Lick 3.0m, HET, and various photometric installations.
  • Discovery of Venus Analogs: The difference between Venus and Earth in terms of mass and size is subtle enough to remain indistinguishable to current detection methods. This project defines the ``Venus Zone'' where runaway greenhouse atmospheres occur and examines the detectable atmospheric signatures of such atmospheres.
  • Planetary Rotation, Obliquity, and Albedos: The DSCOVR spacecraft has been successfully deployed to L1 where the EPIC instrument acquires high resolution images of the Earth's daylit side. We are leading a project to use DSCOVR data to simulate recovery of rotation, obliquity, and albedos for future exoplanet direct imaging missions.
  • Exoplanetary Phase Variations: This project models planetary phase variations at multiple wavelengths, particularly those in eccentric orbits, in order to characterize surface and atmospheric properties. These techniques are being applied to MOST, Spitzer, and Kepler data.
  • Frequency of Ice Giants: The analogs of Uranus and Neptune are difficult to detect using current exoplanet detection techniques. This study investigates the detection prospects and applies the methods to various survey data.