Erik Petigura

Oxygen in Extra-Solar Planetary Systems

Oxygen is the third most abundant element in the universe behind hydrogen and helium. However, measuring its abundance in stars is surprisingly difficult. This is because oxygen transition lines are weak, hard to model, or contaminated with other lines. Recently, new techniques for measuring the oxygen content from stellar spectra have been developed. I will apply these techniques to the nearest 1000 solar-type stars and measure their oxygen content. The oxygen content in stars plays an important role in planet formation. Specifically, the ratio of carbon to oxygen is critical in determining whether rocky planets are composed primarily of silicates (like ours) or carbon compounds. This work will shed light on how the earth compares to the over 300 extra-solar planets discovered to date.

Message to Sponsor

Astronomy has been a life-long passion of mine, and Im excited to finally get my hands dirty with some astronomy research. Extra-solar planets are one of the most interesting fields in astronomy, and its great to be a part of that. I am especially excited to work with Professor Geoff Marcy, who, in addition to being a world-class astronomer, has a kind and patient personality that makes him an ideal mentor. I am grateful for the SURF program for its support in this amazing project.
  • Major: Astrophysics
  • Mentor: Geoff Marcy, Astronomy