I propose to undertake a comprehensive program at the University of Arizona to advance the search for extrasolar planetary systems through nulling interferometry, including a survey of nearby main-sequence stars with nulling at the 6.5 m Multiple Mirror Telescope (MMT), and developing a uniquely sensitive interferometric beam combiner for the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT). The MMT survey will be capable of detecting extrasolar dust down to 10-20 times the solar level, a factor of 100 times fainter than with current methods. The nulling instrument for the LBT will be designed to be capable of detecting extrasolar zodiacal dust down to near solar level. This work will be important in setting the stage, both scientifically and technically, for the Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) mission as currently envisioned by NASA.
Phil is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona.
I propose to investigate about three dozen Mira stars with the state-of-art IOTA interferometer in order to (a) identify mode of pulsation in Mira stars, (b) detect and characterize photospheric asymmetries and stellar surface features. A byproduct programmatic benefit is that we expect to produce a significant contribution to astrophysics, and thereby improve the general acceptance of infrared interferometry by our astrophysical colleagues in the community.