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LabEx LIO

Postdoctoral position – Search and characterisation of co-orbital bodies to TNOs

2022-04-01
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Short description

The LIO Laboratory of Excellence (LabEx) proposes a 2-year post-doctoral position starting on September the 1st 2022  to participate in research related to small body populations focused particularly on applying (and developping) advanced data processing tools to access the faint signals from TNO satellites. Observations will utilize mainly SPHERE and JWST. The objective of our this project is the study of TNOs which are tracers of the formation and evolution of planetary systems: they have a privileged link with planetary migration, and the origins of pre-biotic materials on Earth, and their dispersion in the solar system. Finally, the study of TNOs will bring direct constraints on the gaseous composition of protoplanetary disks which will be studied in parallel in our team. The net salary (+social benefits) will depend on experience. A €3,000 annual package for travels and equipment will be allotted.

Research project (1/2 page – 1 page)

The past history of the solar system - dynamical, physical and chemical - is literally inscribed in the very diverse characteristics of TransNeptunian Objects (TNOs). In a broad stroke, TNOs’ properties can trace not only the protoplanetary disk and the outcomes of planetary migrations, but also formation mechanisms and evolutionary processes. The largest objects or dwarf planets, like Pluto or Eris, are known to have satellites. However, the vast majority of TNOs remains too faint to detect a satellite that would allow to measure the mass, hence the density, of these systems. This is a critical gap in our knowledge of icy objects, since there is compelling evidence that TNOs’ bulk composition and density closely resembles that of the planet precursors or embryos. In addition, as parents of other small body populations such as comets, TNOs hold crucial clues to the distribution of prebiotic material and water in the solar system, and their delivery to Earth and other bodies in the solar system. Finally, studying TNOs can bring direct constraints on the gas composition of protoplanetary disks.

Ground- and space-based observations of TNOs have reached the limits of current telescope capacities about a decade ago. Efforts to trace water ice and to detect and characterize  complex organics in the solar system have always failed to include data in the outer regions, because of the limited sensitivity of the instrumentation. JWST offers the unrivaled opportunity to further advance our knowledge of the early stages of planetary systems. Aurélie Guilbert-Lepooutre is involved in JWST observations dedicated to constraining the surface composition of large and mid-sized TNOs, as PI of a guaranteed program, as well as Co-I of an accepted large program. These unique new observations for a sample of 50-80 objects will start in 2022. To form a meaningful dataset on the core properties of TNOs, and to disentangle their primordial properties from the ones modified through evolution, we thus need to constrain the bulk density of these objects.

The SPHERE planet imaging instrument (High Contrast Spectro-Polarimeter dedicated to the Research of Exoplanets) has allowed a revolution in our vision of the external parts of exoplanetary systems and of the physical properties of giant planets. The whole design of the SPHERE instrument, in which Maud Langlois participated (as Instrument scientist and Co-I of the large exoplanets survey), was based on the need to obtain the highest possible contrast in the immediate environment of the star by the combination of different advanced techniques: adaptive optics extreme, coronography, polarimetry and differential imaging and data processing. These techniques make it possible not only to discover but also to characterize exoplanets and circumstellar environments. With this instrument, excellent contrasts can be achieved (10^-5) even at small (<200 mas) separation, allowing the study of planets and circumstellar discs in a separation range that was previously inaccessible. This unique capacity can be extended to planetology. We have already started various programs with SPHERE in planetology requiring appulses, with several collaborators (Centaur Chariklo and its ring, comet 288P, dwarf planet 2015 RR245) and obtained new asteroid’s satellite detection (, proving that SPHERE can be used for TNO studies. However, the faint signals from TNO satellites are very challenging to detect and will also largely benefit from recent advances in data processing as demonstrated by new satellite detection orbiting the asteroid Elektra by our team (Berdeu 2022, 2021). TNO observations with SPHERE and JWST will benefit from recent developments in image processing made by our team (PIC (Berdeu+2020), Polarimetry (Denneulin+2021). The first step is to apply these new methods to archive data, which will allow, by improving the contrast, to perform the deepest possible search in existing data so to enhance the scientific outcomes. Improvements and new methods in data processing will then be proposed in the “planetology” context, in order to add advanced processing capacity to multi-wavelengths, polarimetric and multi-epoch imaging. 

Research field(s)

Transneptunian objects, high contrast imaging, spectroscopy, data sciences

Supervisors and contact

Name: Maud Langlois (DR CNRS) & Aurélie Guilbert-Lepoutre (CR CNRS)

Laboratory: CRAL & LGL TPE

Email: maud.langlois@univ-lyon1.fr & aurelie.guilbert-lepoutre@univ-lyon1.fr

Working environment

Job location and description

The postdoc position aims to 1- revisit these observations and all existing archival SPHERE TNO data (about a dozen objects) by using new data analysis techniques developed by our team, 2- apply the new data analysis techniques to JWST Data 3- detect, characterize and fit the orbit of TNO satellites and surrounding material like rings, 4- estimate the mass of the systems, 5- use publicly available sizes from Spitzer and Herschel programs to derive the density of the TNOs primaries themselves, which is critical to constrain the formation and the evolution of these systems

The Team

We propose to build an “interdisciplinary” team between astrophysics and geology. The supervisors are experts in different disciplines including observational astronomy, exoplanets, data analysis and planetology, and members of two different laboratories of the LIO, the CRAL and the LGL TPE. The main objective of our this project is the study of TNOs which are tracers of the formation and evolution of planetary systems: they have a privileged link with planetary migration, and the origins of pre-biotic materials on Earth, and their dispersion in the solar system. Finally, the study of TNOs will bring direct constraints on the gaseous composition of protoplanetary disks which will be studied in parallel in our team as part of the ANR DDISK (PI Langlois 2021-2024). Thanks to the developments in data processing together with unique access to JWST and SPHERE data and a deep knowledge of theses instruments, our team will be at the forefront to apply for telescope time to obtain complementary data on TNOs. In parallel, our team will work on numerical modeling to predic/confirm the physical characteristics of TNOs, in direct link with upcoming JWST observations. Ultimately, this study is a unique and novel step forward to better understand the formation of planetary systems, including the solar system.

Allocated resources (technical facilites, computing…)

The Computing infrastructure (50-core server equipped with 500 Go RAM) will include software environment to handle the data processing and is supported by the ANR DDISK project. 

Recent publications of the team

  1. Métayer, Guilbert-Lepoutre, Ferruit et al. (2019) Front. Astron. Space Sci. 6:8 - JWST/NIRSpec Prospects on Transneptunian Objects, https://doi.org/10.3389/fspas.2019.00008
  2. Kral, Pringle, Guilbert-Lepoutre et al. (2021) A&A, in press - A molecular wind blows out of the Kuiper belt
  3. Berdeu, Langlois Vachier, 2022,submitted to Astronomy & Astrophysics
  4. Berdeu (2021) - Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams - (130) ELEKTRA: http://www.cbat.eps.harvard.edu/cbet/005000/CBET005066.txt
  5. Berdeu, Soulez, Denis, Langlois, et al., Astronomy & Astrophysics, Volume 635, id.A90, 21 pp. (2020) - PIC: a data reduction algorithm for integral field spectrographs. Application to the SPHERE instrument
  6. Denneulin, Langlois, Thiébaut, Pustelnik, (2021) A&A, in press - RHAPSODIE: Reconstruction of High-contrAst Polarized SOurces and Deconvolution for cIrcumstellar Environments, https://arxiv.org/abs/2105.05546

Description of LabEx LIO

In 2011, The Lyon Institute of Origins LabEx was selected following the first “Laboratory of Excellence” call for projects, part of the “Investissement d’Avenir” program for forward-looking research. It is one of 12 LabExes supported by the University of Lyon community of universities and establishments (COMUE). LIO brings together more than 200 elite researchers recruited throughout the word and forming 18 research teams from four laboratories in the Rhône-Alps region, all leaders in their fields, under the auspices of the University Claude Bernard Lyon 1 (UCBL), the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, and the CNRS. LIO’s goal is to explore questions about our origins, operating in a broad field of study that ranges from particle physics to geophysics, and includes cosmology, astrophysics, planetology and life.

Selection process

Qualifications / Skills / Education & Research requirements

The ideal candidate must hold a PhD in astrophysics or science data and have skills in the analysis of astrophysical data. Additional expertises on TNO, science data, high contrast imaging, spectroscopy in the NIR will be a bonus. 

Application deadline

April the 1st, 2022

Requested documents for application

Applicants must email a CV, a statement of interest, a letter of recommendation and contact details for 2-3 references maud.langlois@univ-lyon1.fr and aurelie.guilbert-lepoutre@univ-lyon1.fr

before April the 1st, 2022. 

Candidates on the short list will be informed by the end of April. They will be interviewed in May. 

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Om tjänsten

Titel
Postdoctoral position – Search and characterisation of co-orbital bodies to TNOs
Arbetsgivare
Plats
92 Rue Pasteur, Frankrike
Publicerad
2021-11-25
Sista ansökningsdag
2022-04-01
Befattning
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Om arbetsgivaren

In 2011, Lyon Institute of Origins (LIO) LabEx was selected following the first “Laboratory of Excellence” call for projects, part of the “In...

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