ESO Planetary Group

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Our group studies many aspects of planetary formation, not only by looking at our own solar system, but by observing extra-solar systems as well. Some of the questions we ask about the origin of our solar system (original composition of the solar nebula, how did accrete the first planetesimals, what is the role of collision in planetary formation?) can find some answers in the study of the most primitive objects it contains (comets, trans-neptunians, small satellites of the outer planets ...) as well as from the study and characterization of planetary systems at large and exoplanets orbiting young, nearby stars. Another strong scientific interest among members of our group is to search for spectral signature of chemicals present on the outermost solar system objects in order to investigate how the interaction between the interstellar and solar radiations with primitive solar system material increased its chemical complexity to produce the first organic material that will, in the end, become the brick of life as we know it.

The diversity of planetary systems discovered to date illustrates the complexity of planetary formation mechanisms and help us identify which are the main factors driving the formation of planets around other stars. The frontiers between the outer, primitive, solar system and the study of young exo-planetary systems are slowly vanishing. Any new thing we learn about the small and outermost bodies of our solar system, their dynamics, their surface composition, their collision rate, help us better understand how planetesimals accreted in the original planetary disk and how larger planets were born. Any new planetary system discovered brings in a new piece to the puzzle of planetary systems formation, while helping us better understand the place occupied by our own solar system.

The activities of our research group are multifold and cover the following topics:

  • compositional study of the minor bodies of our solar system (asteroids, comets, planetary satellites and rings),
  • primitive bodies of the outer solar system bodies and link to its early history,
  • organic chemistry in the solar system,
  • binary asteroids and collisions among small bodies,
  • search for low mass companions to young stars (brown dwarfs, giant planets) via direct imaging,
  • search for exoplanets via radial velocity techniques,
  • accretion disks and planetary formation.