The science of WHIPLASH

Thousands of exoplanets have now been found. In the next decade, the grand challenge is to characterize their atmospheres. This is the only way to unravel the origin of the wild, unexpected diversity we have uncovered. For this task, there are several planned observations missions but, to be ready for the analysis and interpretation of such high-precision observations, we need new-generation tools fit to address the multiple challenges they will raise. Indeed, until now, most atmospheric characterization observations—e.g. transit/eclipse spectroscopy—are analyzed with spherically symmetric, steady state 1D models that cannot accurately represent the very anisotropic atmospheres of most transiting exoplanets. This issue is worsened by the ubiquity of clouds, whose inhomogeneous spatial distribution— patchiness—prevents any satisfactory treatment in 1D.

In this project, we will develop a new framework to constrain the physics and composition of exo-atmospheres that will allow us to overcome these difficulties when analyzing and interpreting observations. This will be done by exploiting a new 3D planetary atmosphere simulator to answer the following fundamental questions:
– What are the necessary conditions to sustain liquid water on terrestrial exoplanets? How can we infer observationally whether an atmosphere meeting these requirements is actually present?
– Can clouds explain the puzzling features of observed hot, gaseous exoplanets? What can these observations tell us on the dynamical and microphysical properties of clouds inside these atmospheres?

Job Opportunities

There is an opening for two postdoctoral appointments on research associated with exoplanet atmospheric studies. The initial appointments will each be for two years, with a possible extension for up to three years total.

The successful candidates will work closely with Dr. Leconte and also with members of the exoplanet team at LAB (ECLIPSE), such as F. Selsis, P. Bordé, P. Auclair-Desrotour, S. Raymond, etc. They will also be involved in the ARIEL project. The main goal of the project is to link 3D numerical modeling of exoplanetary atmospheres to current and upcoming observations of exoplanet characterization.

The focus of the two positions will be
1) Analysis and modeling of spectroscopic observations of exoplanets. A previous experience with real data, especially form space based observatories, would be a strong plus.
2) 3D numerical modeling of exoplanet atmospheres. Any expertise in cloud formation and radiative effects, radiative modeling of hot atmospheres, and/or 3D atmosphere models is strongly thought after.

The successful candidates will be hosted by the LAB, newly relocated on the campus of the University of Bordeaux, in the beautiful city of Bordeaux, in southern France. The institute provides a dynamic and diverse environment for professional development, and a stimulating work environment. The postdocs will also each receive a 5000 Euros-per-year travel grant to attend international conferences. Benefits include complete health insurance coverage and social security, as required by French law.

Requirements: Applicants are expected to have completed a PhD in astronomy, planetary sciences, or similar field by the time of starting the position. Applicants should send a single PDF document that includes curriculum vitae, a list of publications, and a short statement of research interests also describing how they see their own contribution to the project. They should also arrange for two reference letters to be sent independently. Send all applications and information requests to jeremy.leconte@u-bordeaux.fr. Applications received before June 1st, 2018 will be given full consideration, but will continue to be accepted until the positions are filled.