The characterization and understanding of terrestrial exoplanets is currently one of the most ambitious and challenging long-term goals of astrophysics. All observing techniques with the potential to tackle this challenge face the same limitations: the overwhelmingly dominant flux of the host star and/or the lack of angular resolution. A very promising technical solution around these issues is nulling interferometry, which combines the advantages of stellar interferometry (high angular resolution) and coronagraphy (starlight rejection). With SCIFY (Self-Calibrated Interferometry For exoplanet spectroscopy), we aim at building Hi-5, a thermal near-infrared (3.8 microns) high-contrast nulling interferometric instrument for the visitor focus of the VLTI. We also contribute to the ongoing major VLTI facility upgrade within the GRAVITY+ collaboration. By pushing VLTI high-contrast capabilities to smaller inner working angles, it will be possible to carry out several unique exoplanet programs to study young Jupiter-like exoplanets at the most relevant angular separations (i.e., close to the snow line), better understand how planets form and evolve, and characterize exozodiacal dust disks.
Through the H2020 Opticon-Radionet Pilot program, the KU Leuven Institute of Astronomy is advertising a postdoc position to support the integration of Hi-5 with both the ASGARD visitor instrument suite and with the VLTI. (S)he will also support the Belgian VLTI expertise center activities. The ASGARD Suite is a collection of three visitor instruments bringing novel scientific capabilities to VLTI, including high-sensitivity multi-band (H+K), low-RMS fringe tracking (Heimdallr), high-spectral resolution in YJ-band (BIFROST), and L-band high-contrast imaging (Hi-5/VIKING). Two instruments, BIFROST and Hi-5, are fully funded by the European Research Council (ERC) and currently under development. The selected candidate will join the SCIFY team (currently 2 PhDs, 2 postdocs, 1 engineer) under the supervision of Prof. Denis Defrère and will work as part of an international network of collaborators.
More information on the PhD position can be found here