Thayne Currie, Ph.D.
Areas of Specialization
- Adaptive Optics
- Extrasolar Planets
- High-Contrast Imaging
- Planet Formation
PhD; University of California, Los Angeles (completed at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)
My research focuses on detecting and characterizing extrasolar planets by direct imaging, primarily with the Subaru Coronagraphic Extreme Adaptive Optics project (SCExAO) at the Subaru Telescope on Maunakea, Hawaii. In parallel, I am interested in high-contrast (direct) imaging technology development and new instruments well suited for imaging exoplanets and studying planet formation.
My main projects are:
Exoplanet Direct Imaging Science with SCExAO – SCExAO is a second-stage extreme AO platform, sharpening starlight partially deblurred by Subaru’s facility adaptive optics system. Using SCExAO coupled with the CHARIS integral field spectrograph, I carry out science campaigns in the near-infrared (IR) to directly image extrasolar planets around young stars and study their atmospheres, orbits, and formation.
The targets around which we look for exoplanets primarily draw from two types of samples: 1) very young stars surrounded by protoplanetary disks whose structures (e.g. spirals, gaps) may be caused by an infant planet and 2) nearby stars whose astrometric acceleration may be due to the gravitational pull of an unseen planet.
Exoplanet Direct Imaging Technology Development and Instrumentation – A key focus of mine is developing advanced data reduction software for imaging exoplanets, including an end-to-end data processing pipeline for SCExAO/CHARIS and the development of new algorithms to optimally remove the noisy stellar halo and extract spectra for planets and planet-forming disks.
At UTSA, I plan to develop a new high-contrast imaging laboratory focused on technology development. My goal is to use the laboratory and time on the SCExAO optical bench to explore and hone wavefront control algorithms that will be needed to someday image solar system-like planets in reflected light using ground-based telescopes.
Finally, I am interested in new instrumentation for imaging extrasolar planets. In particular, I am exploring the design for a new instrument at Subaru that will operate simultaneously with SCExAO/CHARIS but at longer wavelengths well suited for discovering and characterizing colder, lower-mass exoplanets.