2009 Annual Science Report
University of Hawaii, Manoa Reporting | JUL 2008 – AUG 2009
Detection of Planets Around M-Dwarfs
In the studies of extrasolar planets, the nearest stars are of particular importance. We have started a survey of nearby M dwarfs in search of terrestrial planets.Our program has been responsible for the discovery of many planets around M dwarfs for the past several years, including the most recent one which is a Saturn-mass object. Our project is continuing and we expect more discovery of small planets in the next year.
In the studies of extrasolar planets, the nearest stars are of particular importance. Having accurate distances and precisely determined stellar parameters, these stars can be followed up by the next generation astrometry, interferometry, and direct imaging techniques. The nearest stars will also be the principle targets of detailed planetary studies and astrobiology for the next century. M dwarfs constitute 72% of the nearby stars. The proximity, low surface temperatures, and small masses of these stars make them unique targets for searching for terrestrial and habitable planets. As the least massive stars, M dwarfs have the greatest reflex acceleration due to an orbiting planet. During the past three years, Haghighipour has been actively involved in the detection of extrasolar planets around M dwarfs both in observation and theoretical modeling. His computational models predicted small planets in two systems, GJ 876 and 55 Cnc, which were later detected using radial velocity surveys. Haghighipour has had a long-standing collaboration with one of the best internationally recognized planet detection teams at NAI/Carnegie. This collaborative project is on-going and has been successful in detecting most of the dozen known M dwarf planets. A recent success has come in form of the detection of a Saturn-mass (0.28 Jupiter-mass) planet, which will soon be announced. Haghighipour is heavily involved in the observation and data reduction of small planets around M dwarfs. More discoveries from his work are expected during the next several months.