Pedro Figueira

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Studying the ability to detect exoplanets by looking at our own Sun

Pedro Figueira

(Ref: ECOST-STSM-TD1308-030816-079941)
Stay at University of Gottingen,  from 03-08-2016 to 17-08-2016

My name is Pedro Figueira, and I am a researcher at the Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences, in Portugal. During my PhD I specialized in the measurement of precise Radial Velocities in the near infra-red, and after it I have been working in the usage and development of nIR instrumentation for planetary searches through RV. I have also been working in the impact of stellar activity on precise radial velocities, and studying the relation between planetary properties and their host properties.

We started to analyze the solar spectra obtained with HARPS through sunlight reflection on the Moon's surface. A first calculation of radial velocities (RV) from the Moon spectra was performed using the HARPS DRS (Data Reduction Software) in its version available from Geneva dedicated machine. This pipeline provides state-of-the-art RV precision, allowing the detection of the lightest exoplanets known to date by measuring the reflex RV motion induced on the parent star. Our objective is to associate the measured RV to the activity patterns identified on the surface of the Sun. However, our observation of the Moon uses a dramatically different set-up than used on observing other stars, and several effects surfaced. The first was the effect of our Earth's RV. When observing other stars one has to remove the signature of Earth's RV around the Sun along the line of sight of observation. This allows us to calculate heliocentric RVs that are time invariant and can be used to create a precise timeseries. When observing the Moon, this corrections is different, and we started by removing the correction as it applied by default, and implementing our own. Other than this, the only effect on RV should be that of Moon's orbital movement and rotation, and the latter effect is expected to be smaller than 10 cm/s and as such at the level of our current instrumental noise. We are currently working on developing the best model for the Moon orbital movement down to the RV precision of the acquired data (~50 cm/s).


CSO Approval date: 14/11/2013
Starting date: 15/05/2014
Ending date: 14/05/2018

Action Chair:
Dr. Muriel GARGAUD (FR)

Vice chair:
Prof. Wolf GEPPERT (SE)

STSM Manager:
Prof. Nigel MASON (UK)

Web Manager:



Grant Holder Financial Representative:

Mrs Annick Caperan

Science Officer:
Dr. Mafalda QUINTAS

Administrative Officer:
Ms Aranzazu SANCHEZ



A Trans-Domain Action supported by COST.

COST is supported by the EU Framework Programme Horizon 2020



Involved countries

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Participating Countries
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom

COST International Partner Countries
Canada (UQAM), South Africa (Univ. of Johanesburgh), Russian Federation (Institute of Geology, Petrozavodsk), Australia (University of Sydney), United States of America (University of Hawai)

Specific Organisations
European Space Agency (ESA)

Short Term Scientific Missions (STSMs)

Aiming at fostering collaboration, sharing new techniques, and infrastructure that may not be available in other participants' institutions or laboratories. STSMs are intended especially for young PhD researchers, but they are open to senior researchers as well. View the documents at this link.

 It should be explicitely noted that Master students are not eligible for STSMs which are for PhD students and more experienced researchers.

The life-Origins COST Project

Life-ORIGINS (TD1308) is a Trans Domain European COST Action dedicated to the scientific investigation of the origins and evolution of life on Earth and habitability of other planets.

The Action has specifically excluded the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life in its portfolio. Creationist theorems are also outside the Action’s remit.

Individuals are not allowed to use the name of the Action, its logo or any corporate identity of COST TD1308 in any communication without prior approval of the Management Committee.

All publications referencing the support of the Action should be sent to the appropriate Working Group chair at the time of submission.