Thesis Title: The dusk of planets: planetary debris and circumstellar disks

Thesis Supervisors: Markus Kissler-PatigSiyi Xu


Planet formation is an energetic field of research, but little is known about the fate of planets after the main sequence phase of their parent stars. The recent discovery of circumstellar disks made of planetary debris around white dwarfs allows now to start studying this late phase of planetary systems.

The PhD thesis that we propose is twofold. The first part is based on a Spitzer/IRAC survey of ~40 hot (20,000-30,000 K) white dwarfs, conducted to search for dust disks as traced by infrared excess. We want to determine the frequency of planetary debris disks around hot white dwarfs, which is largely unknown. The second part of the thesis is the spectral analysis of heavily polluted white dwarfs. Data were obtained with Keck/HIRES and Magellan/MIKE and need to be analysed in order to determine the chemical compositions of the planetary debris.

The thesis is co-supervised by Markus Kissler-Patig (ESO/LMU) and Siyi Xu (Gemini Observatory, Hawaii). It is foreseen that the student will spend extended research periods in Hawaii.

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