Département de physique
Université de Montréal
C.P. 6128, Succursale Centre-Ville
Canada H3C 3J7
Research field: White dwarf stars; asterosismology; exoplanets.
Description of the research project:
Gilles Fontaine has made remarkable scientific breakthroughs in at least three areas of the astrophysics of white dwarf stars. Each of his contributions alone could have given him the status of a world leader. Together, these discoveries make him a world-wide specialist on white dwarf stars. His team has demonstrated that white dwarf stars have much to teach us about the behavior of matter in extreme conditions and on the evolution of stars. Using instruments he help build, Professor Fontaine has developed remarkably effective theoretical and observation tools that are now being used around the world. Some of the methods he has developed have been used to determine the age of our galaxyï¿½s disk and to evaluate the age of the universe. Gilles Fontaine's research activities in asterosismology and stellar evolution have recently led him to take an interest in the fascinating challenges posed by the characterization of exoplanets, one of the major stakes of contemporary astrophysics. Most of the time, the properties of an exoplanet can only be determined if the fundamental characteristics of its parent star are known. In this respect, the asteroseismological method proves to be a tool of choice and, if carried out in the right way, enables us to determine with great precision the structural parameters of a pulsating star, its internal stratification and its age. It is research pathway that Gilles Fontaine has begun to explore and that has already proved its worth in the cases of planets that have been discovered around pulsating stars It also appears that an large and growing number of white dwarf stars bear the signature of planetary debris, which has opened the possibility of determining the bulk composition of these rubbles, a unique tool in planetology. The potential is immense and very promising. In this case, white dwarfs play the role of a "substrate" on which the heavy elements from the planetary rubbles are deposited; however, this substrate is permeable and allows these elements to go through at various rates, depending on the species. In collaboration with his colleagues Patrick Dufour and Pierre Brassard, an expert in numerical computation, Gilles Fontaine hopes to soon be able to effectively simulate the episodes of accretion-diffusion of planetary debris on white dwarf stars
Prix et distinctions: