Personal profile

Research overview

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.

Martin 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. He 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.

Research interests

Gravitational microlensing as a tool for studying
  • Statistics of planet populations within the Milky Way and beyond
  • Statistics of binary systems involving stars and brown dwarfs
  • Mass function of faint objects (black holes, cool white dwarfs, old brown dwarfs)
Technology development
  • Modelling of gravitational microlensing events
  • Real-time data management, assessment, and visualisation
  • Strategies for astronomical observing campaigns and their implementation
  • Cloud computing and constraint programming for user-optimal robotic telescope network scheduling
  • Lucky imaging
Life beyond Earth and implications for ourselves
  • Clues to life on Earth from extra-terrestrial exploration
  • Consequences of detection and its societal framework

Other expertise

Detection and characterization of extra-solar planets by means of gravitational microlensing; determination of abundance of galactic and extra-galactic planets; modelling of photometric and astrometric microlensing events and development of required numerical algorithms

Teaching activity

Martin Dominik has been teaching General Relativity, as well as selected lectures of the SUPA Astrobiology course.

Biography

Martin Dominik is a Reader at the School of Physics & Astronomy of the University of St Andrews. He completed his doctorate (Dr. rer. nat.) at the University of Dortmund (Germany) in 1996, where he was attracted from theoretical physics into astronomy with new developments in the emerging field of 'gravitational lensing', i.e. the gravitational bending of light. Martin subsequently worked at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore (MD, U.S.A), supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG), and as Marie Curie Fellow at the Kapteyn Institute of the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (The Netherlands). A serious medical condition encountered in 2000 meant that he had to start re-building his career with the move to St Andrews in 2003. He held a Royal Society University Research Fellowship from 2006 to 2015. Since 1993, Martin's research has focused on applications of the gravitational microlensing effect, and in particular on its potential for studying planets orbiting stars other than the Sun. His work as a team co-leader was essential for detecting OGLE-2005BLG-390Lb, which, with estimated 5 Earth masses, was considered to be the least massive extra-solar planet orbiting a star known at the time of the announcement of this discovery, and provided the first observational hint that Earth-like planets are common in the Universe. Martin is a strong advocate of communication being an essential part of science, and science being an integral part of society. He organised a Royal Society 350 th anniversary year Discussion Meeting on "The detection of extra-terrestrial life and the consequences for science and society". He also established a programme “Fascination Astronomy” supporting education and capacity building in Qatar. Martin was elected member of the Global Young Academy, and he is also member of the SETI Permanent Committee of the International Academy of Astronautics. He is interested in policy dimensions and engaging across national borders, as well as across the sciences, humanities, and arts.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities

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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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  • Discovery of a cool planet of 5.5 Earth masses through gravitational microlensing

    Beaulieu, J-P., Bennett, D. P., Fouque, P., Williams, A., Dominik, M., Jorgensen, U. G., Kubas, D., Cassan, A., Coutures, C., Greenhill, J., Hill, K., Menzies, J., Sackett, P. D., Albrow, M. D., Brillant, S., Caldwell, J. A. R., Calitz, J. J., Cook, K. H., Corrales, E., Desort, M., & 53 othersDieters, S., Dominis, D., Donatowicz, J., Hoffman, M., Kane, S., Marquette, J-B., Martin, R., Meintjes, P., Pollard, K., Sahu, K., Vinter, C., Wambsganss, J., Woller, K., Horne, K. D., Steele, I., Bramich, D. M., Burgdorf, M., Snodgrass, C., Bode, M., Udalski, A., Szymanski, M. K., Kubiak, M., Wieckowski, T., Pietrzynski, G., Soszynski, I., Szewczyk, O., Wyrzykowski, L., Paczynski, B., Abe, F., Bond, I. A., Britton, T. R., Gilmore, A. C., Hearnshaw, J. B., Itow, Y., Kamiya, K., Kilmartin, P. M., Korpela, A. V., Masuda, K., Matsubara, Y., Motomura, M., Muraki, Y., Nakamura, S., Okada, C., Ohnishi, K., Rattenbury, N. J., Sako, T., Sato, S., Sasaki, M., Sekiguchi, T., Sullivan, D. J., Tristram, P. J., Yock, P. C. M. & Yoshioka, T., 26 Jan 2006, In: Nature. 439, 7075, p. 437-440 4 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    450 Citations (Scopus)
  • An anomaly detector with immediate feedback to hunt for planets of Earth mass and below by microlensing

    Dominik, M., Rattenbury, N. J., Allan, A., Mao, S., Bramich, D. M., Burgdorf, M. J., Kerins, E., Tsapras, Y. & Wyrzykowski, L., 11 Sept 2007, In: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 380, 2, p. 792-804 13 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    44 Citations (Scopus)
  • ARTEMiS (Automated Robotic Terrestrial Exoplanet Microlensing Search): A possible expert-system based cooperative effort to hunt for planets of Earth mass and below

    Dominik, M., Horne, K., Allan, A., Rattenbury, N. J., Tsapras, Y., Snodgrass, C., Bode, M. F., Burgdorf, M. J., Fraser, S. N., Kerins, E., Mottram, C. J., Steele, I. A., Street, R. A., Wheatley, P. J. & Wyrzykowski, L., Mar 2008, In: Astronomische Nachrichten. 329, p. 248-251 4 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    41 Citations (Scopus)
  • Discovery of a Jupiter/Saturn analog with gravitational microlensing

    Gaudi, B. S., Bennett, D. P., Udalski, A., Gould, A., Christie, G. W., Maoz, D., Dong, S., McCormick, J., Szymanski, M. K., Tristram, P. J., Nikolaev, S., Paczynski, B., Kubiak, M., Pietrzynski, G., Soszynski, I., Szewczyk, O., Ulaczyk, K., Wyrzykowski, L., Depoy, D. L., Han, C., & 31 othersKaspi, S., Lee, C. -U., Mallia, F., Natusch, T., Pogge, R. W., Park, B. -G., Abe, F., Bond, I. A., Botzler, C. S., Fukui, A., Hearnshaw, J. B., Itow, Y., Kamiya, K., Korpela, A. V., Kilmartin, P. M., Lin, W., Masuda, K., Matsubara, Y., Motomura, M., Muraki, Y., Nakamura, S., Okumura, T., Ohnishi, K., Rattenbury, N. J., Sako, T., Saito, T., Sato, S., Skuljan, L., Dominik, M., Horne, K. D. & RoboNET Collaborations, uFUN Collaboration, MOA Collaboration, OGLE Collaboration, PLANET Collaboration, 15 Feb 2008, In: Science. 319, 5865, p. 927-930 4 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    250 Citations (Scopus)
  • Studying planet populations with Einstein's blip

    Dominik, M., 13 Aug 2010, In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. A, Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences . 368, 1924, p. 3535-3550 16 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)