Carina's research topic is exoplanets - planets orbiting other stars - and she is the head of Chalmers Exoplanet Group (CEG). Although thousands of exoplanets have been discovered since 1995, no Earth-like habitable planet or any exoplanet system like our own has been found. The major discovery has instead been the diversity of exoplanets. Completely new types of planets that do not exist in our own system have been discovered, for instance super-Earths and mini-Neptunes.
Both Europe and the U.S. have invested heavily in new dedicated exoplanet space missions: The TESS and CHEOPS spacecrafts measures with ultra-high precision the tiny dips in the visible light of stars that occurs when an exoplanet passes in front of its star. In this way new planets and their occurence can be detected and a lot of additional information can be found by analysing the light curves for instance planet sizes. To further characterise the exoplanets, these observations are combined with follow-up observations from ground-based observatories that measures stellar radial velocities which gives information of the planet masses. When both mass and radius have been obtained, the bulk density can be determined and used for a first examination of the composition of the planet.
Carina and CEG are also working with preparations for the launch of the European space mission PLATO in 2026. The goal of that spacecraft is to determine the occurence of different types of planets and system and to find out how common our own planet system and the Earth are.
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