The recipients are: Dr Cassandra Hall, a postdoctoral research associate in theoretical astrophysics at the University of Leicester; and Dr Edward Gillen, a postdoctoral researcher in astrophysics at the University of Cambridge.
An exoplanet, or extrasolar planet, is a planet outside our solar system that orbits a star. The Winton Exoplanet Fellowship programme recognises early-career researchers of significant potential and provides them with the opportunity to conduct independent research that will establish them in positions of distinction and leadership in the field of planetary astronomy.
Dr Hall, a member of Leicester’s department of physics and astronomy, will use state-of-the art computational techniques to focus on improving our fundamental understanding of exoplanet formation, through simulations of these exoplanets in their birth environment – a circumstellar disc around the host star.
Dr Gillen, meanwhile, will monitor several young open star clusters to search for young transiting “hot Jupiter” planets to better understand the formation and early evolution of planetary systems. The term “hot Jupiter” planets describes those planets that have gaseous structures akin to Jupiter’s, but by contrast experience extremely short orbital periods around a star.
The awards, of up to £220,000, are intended to provide exceptional recent doctoral scientists with the opportunity to conduct novel theoretical and observational research into planetary astronomy.