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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 Muñoz studies mechanisms like disk-driven and high-eccentricity migration, distorted protoplanetary disks, and few-body secular dynamics and stellar obliquities.

Professor Fragione uses numerical methods to investigate the origin and fate of planetary systems in binary and triple stars.







CIERA Postdoctoral Fellowship Positions in Astronomy & Astrophysics

Deadline: 11:59pm, November 22, 2022

The Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA) at Northwestern University invites applications for CIERA Postdoctoral Fellowships. CIERA Fellows have the opportunity to pursue an independent research program and benefit from a diverse and dynamic intellectual environment.

Postdoctoral Associate Positions in Observational Astronomy & Astrophysics

Deadline: 11:59pm, November 22, 2022

Northwestern University expects to offer postdoctoral associate positions in observational astronomy and astrophysics starting in fall 2022. These positions will be part of the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA) at Northwestern. Successful applicants will benefit from interaction with a broad interdisciplinary group of researchers and will be immersed in a diverse and dynamic intellectual environment.



Core Faculty

Associate and Affiliate Faculty


Graduate Students