Luigi Mancini

Associate Professor in Astrophysics

Hello, welcome to my home page.
I am an Associate Professor working at the Department of Physics of the University of Rome Tor Vergata. I am also affiliated with the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg (MPIA) and the INAF Astrophysical Observatory of Turin (OATo). My current research is mainly focused on the search for new Extrasolar Planets and their physical characterization.

I am involved in several collaborations, including:

  • HATSouth, which uses a network of identical, fully automated wide-field telescopes, for detecting new transiting exoplanets;
  • GAPS, which is undertaking a challenging observational program to characterize the global architectural properties of exoplanetary systems, by using the high-resolution spectrograph HARPS-N;
  • CARMENES, which is carrying out a survey of 300 late-type main-sequence stars with the goal of detecting low-mass planets in their habitable zones;
  • MiNDSTEp, which exploits the technique of gravitational microlensing to study the population of planets in the Galaxy.
  • I have also participated in several programs aimed to confirm the planetary nature of a subset of Kepler and K2 candidates via radial-velocity follow-up observations, and I am now working on TESS data. I also collaborate with SuperWASP e QES contributing with photometric follow-up observations of their planet candidates.

We discovered TOI-1853b, which is the most dense Neptune-size planet in the known Galaxy thanks to TESS data and precise radial-velocity measurements with HARPS-N at the TNG.

I was a member of the JWST (James Webb Space Telescope) Transiting Exoplanet Community Early Release Science program, whose goal was to understand the limitations and capabilities of the JWST instruments and provide the scientific community with the technical skills to analyze JWST data, in particular those concerning the study of the atmospheres of transiting exoplanets. The aim was not only to demonstrate JWST's ability to obtain precise measurements of the chemical composition of the atmospheres of transiting planets but also to test the various instrumental modalities, which are currently used to study a wide variety of exoplanets, from the hot and giant ones up to the more temperate and terrestrial ones. A little over a month after the first data collected by the James Webb Space Telescope, the Transiting Exoplanet Early Release Science Team unequivocally detected carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of the exoplanet WASP-39b. In 2023, we achieved another first: an extremely detailed molecular and chemical portrait of the skies of the exoplanet WASP-39b. Among the unprecedented revelations, there is the first detection in an exoplanetary atmosphere of sulfur dioxide, a molecule produced by chemical reactions triggered by highly energetic radiation from the planet's parent star. Other atmospheric constituents detected by the JWST include sodium, potassium and water vapour, confirming previous observations from space and ground-based telescopes, as well as finding additional traces of water, at longer wavelengths, that had never been seen Before. The JWST also saw carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, the latter at higher resolution, providing double the data reported by its previous observations. These results have been described in a series of papers published by Nature (Volume 614 Issue 7949). 


I am also a member of the Exo-Earth Discovery and Exploration Network (EDEN), which aims to find habitable planets within 50 light years. Actually, a large part of the exoplanet community is focussing on the neighbours of the Solar system, not only for the obvious observational reasons but also in the spirit of future exploration, because the closest planets will be the only ones that can be reached by the human being on a historical scale.

I am leading an observational program to accurately measure the characteristics of known exoplanet systems hosting close-in transiting giant planets. Our study is based on high-quality photometric follow-up observations of transit events with an array of medium-class telescopes, which are located in both the northern and the southern hemispheres. High photometric precision is achieved through the telescope-defocussing technique. The data are then reduced and analyzed homogeneously for estimating the orbital and physical parameters of both the planets and their parent stars. We also make use of multi-band imaging cameras for probing planetary atmospheres via the transmission-photometry technique. In some cases, we adopt a two-site observational strategy for collecting simultaneous light curves of individual transits, which is the only reliable method for truly distinguishing a real astrophysical signal from systematic noise.

I am the main organizer of the Advanced School on Exoplanetary Science, whose first four editions took place in Vietri sul Mare (Italy) in May 2015, 2017, 2019 (ASES3) and 2023 (ASES4)

 Lecture Notes of ASES1: Methods of Detecting Exoplanets

Lecture Notes of ASES2: Astrophysics of Exoplanetary Atmospheres

Lecture Notes of ASES3: Demographics of Exoplanetary Systems

The publication list is powered by the Astrophysics Data System

Teaching in the Physics Department
ID Course Name Semester Length CFU
Astrophysical Techniques Second 14 Weeks 8
Exoplanets First 14 Weeks 6