November 22, 2013: The Outer Architecture of M Dwarf Planetary Systems

High-contrast imaging is a powerful tool to probe the outer architecture of planetary systems and directly study the atmospheres of extrasolar giant planets. Previous imaging surveys have primarily focused on intermediate- and high-mass stars, revealing a handful of giant planets. Yet M dwarfs, which present more favorable planet-star contrasts and make up 75% of all stars, have largely been neglected. As a result, little is known about the population of gas-giant planets at moderate separations (10-100 AU) in this stellar mass regime. For the past several years I have carried out a high-contrast adaptive optics imaging survey targeting newly identified nearby (<35 pc) young (<300 Myr) M dwarfs with Keck II/NIRC2 and Subaru/HiCIAO. With a sample size of over 120 young M dwarfs, this is the largest direct imaging planet search in this stellar mass regime. I will present the discoveries and statistical results from this survey and discuss their implications for the formation of gas-giant planets around the most common stars in our galaxy.

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