Martin Dominik is a Reader at the School of Physics & Astronomy at the University of St Andrews. His research focuses on applications of the gravitational microlensing effect, and in particular on its potential for studying planets orbiting stars other than the Sun.
Gravitational microlensing events arise from the bending of light of observed stars caused by the gravity of an intervening stellar or sub-stellar mass object, resulting in a characteristic transient brightening (photometric signature) and a shift of the centroid of light (astrometric signature). Observing these signatures can provide us with population statistics of faint or unseen objects over a mass range spanning more than 9 decades, from black holes over neutron stars, white dwarfs, brown dwarfs, gas- and ice-giant planets, super-Earths and rocky planets, down to satellites of Lunar mass.
While more than 1000 extra-solar planets have been reported, revealing an amazing diversity, there is still uncharted territory remaining to be explored, namely towards lower planet masses and temperatures. Gravitational microlensing is uniquely suited to fill this gap of knowledge with its detection sensitivity peaking beyond the snow line.
Dominik is the co-PI and Science Coordinator of the MiNDSTEp campaign, which monitors ongoing gravitational microlensing events with high-quality photometry at high cadence, after previously having been co-PI of the PLANET collaboration, which in 1995 established the first round-the-clock microlensing follow-up network, and led the detection of 5-Earth mass planet OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb, which provided the first observational hint for Earth-like planets being common in the Universe. Dominik is also a co-I of the RoboNet campaign, using a network of 1m and 2m robotic telescopes, including the three SUPAscopes, which form part of the LCOGT network. He is PI of the ARTEMiS project, providing a software system for real-time data modelling, visualisation, and implementation of an efficient strategy, which steers the automated target selection of both the MiNDSTEp and RoboNet campaigns.
While upcoming high-cadence wide-field microlensing surveys are now set to probe the mass function of cold planets down to Earth mass, Dominik is currently developing lucky imaging photometry for the MiNDSTEp and RoboNet campaigns in order to extend the sensitivity by a further two decades in mass, reaching even beyond the Moon.
On the other end of the mass spectrum, Dominik is co-I of a project to identify isolated stellar-mass black holes by means of astrometric microlensing.