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Exoplanets and their Stellar Hosts


The NEID precision radial velocity spectrometer is just completing commissioning on the WIYN 3.5-m telescope and should provide a strong foundation for exoplanet research. For information about NEID, see the WIYN website. IU is a major partner in the WIYN Consortium.

Faculty Research on Exoplanets and their Stellar Hosts

  • Prof. Songhu Wang
  • Prof. Wang's research centers on setting our Solar System into the context of the Galactic exoplanetary census by leveraging a full range of advanced observations, dynamical simulations, and theoretical insight. His observational studies make use of the new NEID high precision radial velocity exoplanet spectrometer at the 3.5 m WIYN telescope as well as imaging studies on the WIYN 0.9-m telescope to follow up on discoveries from NASA's TESS satellite mission Professor Wang will also use IU's high performance computing facilities in his research.

  • Prof. Constantine Deliyannis and Dr. Qinghui Sun
  • Prof. Deliyannis and his students are measuring the effects of stellar rotation on measurements of the masses and sizes of stars. Astronomers need accurate measurements of the masses and radii of stars that host planets in order to determine the masses and sizes of planets orbiting those stars. They are using the Hydra multi-fiber spectrograph on the 3.5-m WIYN telescope to examine fast-rotating stars in the Pleiades, Praesepe, and Messier 35 star clusters, and have found evidence that fast rotation inflates the radii of stars by about 10-15% compared to more slowly rotating stars.

  • Prof. Caty Pilachowski
  • Dr. Pilachowski is a co-investigator on a $750K NASA EPSCOR award "Igniting a New Era of Planet Discovery with FHiRE: A Precision Spectrograph at the WIRO Telescope" to the University of Wyoming for the construction of a precision radial velocity spectrograph for use on the University of Wyoming 2.3-meter research telescope southwest of Laramie. Construction of the spectrograph is nearly complete, and commissioning will begin in the next few months. Through an agreement with the University of Wyoming, Indiana University astronomers will receive 15 nights per year on the WIRO telescope for 8 years to carry out exoplanet research using the spectrograph.

    Prof. Pilachowski also participated in a study of the young star RZ Piscium, a star surrounded by a disk of material left over from its formation. The presence of a disk of dust and debris around the star suggests that the orbits of planets forming in the disk appear to be unstable. Planets are disrupted when they orbit too close to the star or even collide together, forming clouds of dusty debris that can be detected at infrared wavelengths. This period of instability may be a characteristic of young exoplanet systems, and RZ Piscium provides an opportunity for astronomers to study this short-lived phase of planetary system formation.

  • Prof. Katherine Rhode
  • Prof. Rhode's research interests include the evolution of rotation in young, solar-type stars. She has used the Hydra multi-fiber spectrograph on the 3.5-m WIYN telescope to measure the rotational velocities of hundreds of stars in the process of forming their own solar systems in Galactic open clusters like the Orion Nebula Cluster, IC 348, and NGC 2264.