Nuno C. Santos (PI)
FIERCE aims at providing the long-needed step forward to tackle the challenges of stellar activity on the search for Exoearths.
The detection and characterisation of other Earths, planets with the physical conditions to hold liquid water and thus potential life-sustaining environments, is a bold objective of present day astrophysics. This goal continuously pushes the development of new ground- and space-based instrumentation. However, the quest for other Earths is severely limited by astrophysical “noise” from the host stars, whose signatures distort the spectra that are used to detect and characterise them. Existing methods usually circumvent the problem without a detailed understanding of the individual sources of variability. This is insufficient to reach the required precision levels. To enable the full scientific success of major exoplanet research facilities a new approach is clearly needed.
With FIERCE, we will provide make a new break through in this obstacle. The ultimate goal is to i) develop novel approaches to identify, model, and correct stellar spurious signals in radial velocity measurements down to 10 cm/s, and ii) obtain a comprehensive understanding of the impact of stellar granulation and activity on the detection of exoplanet atmospheres. To this end, FIERCE will approach the problem of stellar “noise” from a whole new angle, building a dedicated facility, the Paranal solar Espresso Telescope (PoET). PoET will connect to the recently commissioned ESPRESSO spectrograph and, using the Sun as a proxy, allow to unambiguously identify and understand the sources of relevant variability in solar-type stars.