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Exoplanets & The Solar System

Planet Formation, Planet Dynamics, Protoplanetary Disks

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC)

Since the discovery of the first exoplanet just over twenty years ago, the study of exoplanets has grown explosively. By now, astronomers have discovered thousands of exoplanets, with an incredibly diverse array of properties. This growth will undoubtedly continue into the future, as new kinds of planets are being observed with increasingly advanced telescopes. Faculty in CIERA study exoplanets theoretically and build instruments to directly image them.

Research at CIERA


The groups of Professors Rasio and Lithwick carry out theoretical work and simulations to study the long-term dynamics of planetary systems. Both groups study the chaotic dynamics of multi-planet systems as they evolve. Professor Rasio’s group also studies planet-planet interactions, star-planet interactions and tidal disruptions, and planets in binary star systems.

Professor Ulmer’s group is developing new infrared camera technology to advance our understanding of planetary systems by directly imaging planets around other stars.

Professor Wang’s group works on developing and using new instrumentation (high contrast imaging, high resolution spectroscopy, optical interferometry) to study directly imaged planetary systems and measure properties such as mass, orbital configuration, composition, and spin.

Professor Geller studies how gravitational interactions within star clusters can modify planetary systems over time, using numerical simulations, and how these simulated planets correspond with observations.

Professor Lecoanet studies flows in stars, as well as tidal interactions between planets and stars.








51 Pegasi b Fellowship at Northwestern

Deadline: 11:59pm, October 4, 2024

Northwestern University is excited to be a new host institution for the Heising-Simons Foundation’s 51 Pegasi b Fellowship. Fellows can collaborate on planetary astronomy research and can benefit from affiliation with both CIERA and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. The 2024/2025 application cycle is open from July 9, 2024 until October 4, 2024.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Deadline: 11:59pm, December 31, 2025

CIERA supports a wide range of interdisciplinary projects focused on research, education, and public outreach in Astrophysics. Our faculty and postdocs work on projects that couple astronomy and astrophysics analysis with many other disciplines: computer science, applied math, planetary sciences, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, data science, science education, and more. Many have hired/mentored undergraduate researchers



Core Faculty

Associate Faculty

Affiliate Faculty

External Faculty

Diego Munoz

Diego Muñoz

Visiting Scholar, Professor at University of Arizona


Graduate Students