Origin and Evolution of Stars and Planets

PI: Margarida S. Cunha (since 1 April 2012)

Team members

The key objective of the team is to address important issues of the physics that drives the formation and evolution of stars and planets, including in particular the questions on

Star Formation and Early Evolution
Task leader: J. F. Gameiro

Image courtesy of M. S. Nanda Kumar

Our goal is to conduct unbiased, wide field, multi-wavelength observations of galactic molecular clouds and its young stellar objects (YSO) content in the embedded clusters (EC) and halo. Studies of the structure and dynamics of ECs and comparing observational results to the star formation simulations are our focus. Understanding the formation of massive stars is also a primary theme. We use infrared-mm observations and radiative transfer models to study candidate massive protostellar objects.
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Planetary Systems
Task leader: Nuno C. Santos

Image credit: ESO

Extra-solar planet research primarily focus on the detection and characterization of planets orbiting solar-type stars. We currently have privileged access to top-class facilities, like HARPS (ESO), and we are active members in other state-of-the-art planet search surveys using radial-velocities and the photometric transit method. Particular emphasis is given to the detection of very low-mass (Earth- or Neptune-like) planets, and to the study of the physical properties of planet-hosting stars (mass, age, chemical abundances).
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Stellar Interiors and Atmospheres
Task leader: M. J. P. F. G. Monteiro

Image credit: NASA

One important goal of the team is to understand the details of the structure and evolution of stars of low and intermediate masses. To pursue this goal, the team explores a technique known as Asteroseismology, which is based on the study of stellar oscillations. These activities are supported by the team's participation in the French-led mission CoRoT, launched in December 2006, in the Kepler Asteroseismic Science Consortium for the NASA mission, Kepler, launched in March 2009, and the participation in a consortium for the ESA mission PLATO, currently under study.
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