Alexandrine L'Heureux - Physics & astrophysics
Alexandrine is a doctoral student in astrophysics at the Université de Montréal. She is carrying out her research project with theInstitut de recherche sur les exoplanètes (iREx). Her passion for physics dates back to high school, when she had little information about possible career opportunities, so she hesitated for a long time before taking the plunge. That's why she's so enthusiastic about introducing her mentees to the world of research!
Project: The great celestial balance, or how to measure the mass of exoplanets
" One of the oldest ways of measuring the mass of an object is to compare it with another for which the mass is well known, using a weighing scale, for example. In my research project, I'm using such a mechanism to determine the mass of planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets. To do this, I compare them with the stars around which they orbit, whose characteristics are well known.
Consider a balance with a star and a planet on each pan. The latter will be completely tilted towards the star, which is much more massive. However, a planet of greater mass will be able to tilt the scales more. Its influence on the star will be amplified, in other words, it will draw the star towards itself with greater force.
In my project, you'll explore this effect that planets have on their star. Using data collected by the SPIRou instrument on the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, you'll use computer programming to measure the mass of a known exoplanet. In doing so, you'll also examine the possibility that it may be accompanied by other, as yet unknown planets! "