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Towards nearby Exo-Earths by way of young Neptunes

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Annelies Mortier.

Finding planets similar to the Earth orbiting nearby stars, so that they can be characterised in detail, is the key driver for both the PLATO space mission, which will search 40% of the visible sky for years at a time to search for planetary transits, and the Terra Hunting Experiment (THE), which will monitor the radial velocities of a few dozen carefully selected targets for a full decade. Stellar activity is one of the main limiting factors for both surveys, as it induces variations in the light and RV curves roughly two orders of magnitude larger than the planetary signals of interest. My group use data-driven, but physically and statistically principled methods, particularly Gaussian Processes, to model stellar activity and planetary signals simultaneously and disentangle the two. This novel approach is already enabling us, for the first time, to measure masses for transiting planets discovered by K2 and TESS around young stars, where the ratio of stellar activity and planetary signals is similar. These young systems are precious, in-situ probes of the key processes which shape the overall exoplanet population, such as photo-evaporation. I will summarise these recent results and outline how existing observations of the Sun-as-a-star, can be used to optimize our strategies for finding Earth-like planets with PLATO and THE .

This talk is part of the Institute of Astronomy Colloquia series.

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