Nicholas M. Law
Exoplanets, Instrumentation and Data Mining
My research is based on the new generation of very large time-domain sky surveys and adaptive optics instruments, with a focus on using them for exoplanet detection and characterization. My major projects are listed below.
email: law around di.utoronto.ca
office phone: 416-946-5432
Exoplanets from the Arctic: the First Wide-field Survey at 80 Degrees North -- AJ in press (Oct 2012)
Millions of Multiples: Detecting and Characterizing Close-Separation Binary Systems in Synoptic Sky Surveys -- submitted to ApJS, led by my student Emil Terziev for his senior thesis (Sep 2012)
Three New Eclipsing White-dwarf-M-dwarf Binaries Discovered in a Search for Transiting Planets around M-dwarfs (ApJ 2012 757 133L)
Current Collaborations and Leadership Positions
PTF/M-dwarfs is a search for giant planets around M-dwarfs using data from the Palomar Transient Factory, as well as followup by other telescopes. We are developing ways to efficiently mine the nearly-100TB PTF supernova-search dataset for rare transit events. So far we have observed over 100,000 M-dwarfs, with sensitivity to planetary transits around each one. A brief description of the project can be found in the PTF science cases paper, a recent poster from the Cool Stars conference is here, and the Cool Stars conference proceedings are here and here. A recent ApJ paper with the first results from the project is here.
Robo-AO is a robotic laser guide star adaptive optics system designed for the Palomar 60-inch telescope. The system is currently undergoing commissioning. I recently led its first science paper using the system's Lucky Imaging + AO capabilities. Our SPIE paper has more details.
Our survey, the first nighttime astronomical survey performed in the High Canadian Arctic, covered 500 square degrees in a variety of filters in February 2012. An example image cut-out from the camera is here. A paper on the first run's results is here. The cameras recently finished their 2012/2013 run (2013 sunrise here), observing (and surviving) throughout the Arctic winter, robotically performing their long-term exoplanet search program.
The Dunlap Institute Arctic Telescope (PI)
DIAT is a wide field half-metre telescope designed to search for habitable transiting planets around cool stars. The system will operate in the high Canadian arctic, where 24-hour darkness will improve the survey's detection efficiency by a large factor compared to mid-latitude sites. We recently published a paper partly using results from the telescope (which is currently undergoing testing in New Mexico).
Other current collaborations (and links to recent papers): the Palomar Transient Factory; the PTF Open Cluster rotation and activity survey; searching for close companions in very wide M-dwarf binaries; astrometric microlensing of local dark matter microhalos as a probe of the small-scale primordial power spectrum.
Selected recent projects
PTF is a transient search using an 8-square-degree imager on the Palomar 48-inch telescope. PTF (PI: Shri Kulkarni) is a collaboration of over 70 people in many institutions. The system completed commissioning in summer 2009; a full description of the system is published in Law et al. 2009 (PASP 121.1395L). PTF has already found over a thousand extragalactic transients and discovered a whole new class of supernova!
LAMP: LuckyCam + AO on the Palomar 200" (PI)
Using a combination of Adaptive Optics (AO) and Lucky Imaging we achieved the highest-resolution-ever images taken with visible light from the ground or space. The paper describing the results is here. The project was somehow named one of Time Magazine's best inventions of 2007.
My PhD thesis research was on Lucky Imaging, the first system capable of reliably taking images with Hubble Space Telescope resolution from the ground using visible light and faint guide stars.
CV & Publication List
A PDF version of my publication list is here.
Last updated Nov. 2012