RoPACS, one of the big collaborations I am involved, is a European network which has the goal of training PhD students in the field of the exoplanet search and characterization (by the way, we are opening 11 positions in several countries across Europe). The network is being coordinated by David Pinfield, from the Hertfordshire University. In order to achieve this aim, we are exploiting the WFCAM Transit survey, an ambitious project which has been granted several hundred nights at the UKIRT telescope over the next few years. We are monitoring a significant amount of M dwarfs in the near infrared, trying to detect subtle changes in their light curves which might be induced by the presence of planets. Since M dwarfs emit most of their energy at those wavelengths, and since relative size between the fiducial planet and the host star is larger (ie, the deeps in the light curves are more relevant), we do believe this is the best strategy to detect a rocky planet: am Earth-like body orbiting around other star.
During the last two days, I have organized the “kick-off meeting” at the “Centro de Astrobiología“, a face-to-face lively discussion where we have been able to clarify several issues and define the best startegy for the future. It has been a little bit exhausting (hotel booking, transportation, etc), but the effort has been worth it and I hope we will have interesting results soon enough.