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 an ERC-CoG, the KU Leuven Institute of Astronomy is advertising 2 PhD positions. The selected candidates will join the SCIFY team (2 PhDs, 2 postdocs, 1 engineer) under the supervision of Prof. Denis Defrère and will work as part of an international network of collaborators. The advertised positions cover the following topics:
More information on the PhD position can be found here
The selected PhD students will be offered a 2-year contract, once renewable with 2 more years after positive evaluation. The salary will be commensurate to the standard scale for PhD students in Belgium; it includes social and medical insurance as well as pension rights. The foreseen starting date is October 1st 2021 but can be negotiated.
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