A research line at IEEC-ICE that has been recently started is related to exoplanets, or planets circling around other stars. So far, about 200 such planets have been discovered. These planets are of Jovian type (similar to Jupiter), meaning gaseous planets with masses much larger than Earth. Most of them have had their orbits measured from observations of the radial velocity of their host star. Researchers I. Ribas and J. Miralda have investigated a correlation of these planets between their masses and their orbital eccentricities, and also between their masses and the metallicity of the host star. A simple idea has been proposed to account for these correlations that postulates two populations of planets: one forms directly by collapse of gas and makes massive planets on eccentric orbits, and the other forms low-mass planets starting from rock-ice cores on circular orbits (which can later acquire an eccentricity by dynamical processes), preferentially in stars of high metallicity. Further work is being planned for investigating these correlations and their implications for the origin of exoplanets in more detail.
On the other hand, the ICE Group of Meteorites, Minor Bodies and Planetary Sciences is leaded by Ph.D. Josep M. Trigo-Rodríguez and works in the characterization and analysis of meteorites, with particular emphasis in the most pristine ones (chondrites). Our expertise in primitive and Martian meteorites made that our research center is an officially recognized repository of Antarctic NASA meteorites. In fact, the carbonaceous chondrites are aggregates representing the primordial components of the protoplanetary disk in our solar system, being water-rich, and also containing variable proportions of organic matter and other volatile compounds of astrobiological relevance. Our studies allow us to obtain new clues on the initial states of planetary formation, and also in the physico-chemical processes occurred during the evolution of their parent bodies (asteroids and comets). The group is integrated by Ph.D. Josep M. Trigo-Rodríguez (P.I., CSIC-IEEC tenured scientist), the part time investigators Prof. Dr. Jacinto Alonso-Azcárate from the Universidad Castilla La Mancha (UCLM) and Dr. Mar Tapia from the Laboratori d’Estudis Geofísics Eduard Fontseré (IEC), and also the PhD. students Carles E. Moyano-Cambero (CSIC-IEEC), Marina Martínez-Jiménez (CSIC-IEEC), and Manuel Moreno-Ibáñez (CSIC-IEEC). Other external group members are Prof. Dr. Jürgen Blum (Institut für Geophysik und extraterrestrische Physik, Germany), Dr. Larry Nittler(Carnegie Institute, USA), Prof. Dr. Uli Ott(Max Planck Institut für Chemie, Germany), and Dr. Andy Rivkin (John Hopkins University, USA). Together with several master students currently participating in research tasks, it makes the group young, dynamic, and multidisciplinary. Our studies are based in using different techniques available in CSIC laboratories for meteorite minerals characterization (SEM, EDX, TEM, micro-Raman, ICP-MS, etc.). The main goal is increasing our understanding of the formation and physico-chemical processing of Solar System minor bodies: comets, asteroids and meteorites. We also collaborate with Prof. Dr. Jordi Llorca del Institute of Energy Technologies of Technical University of Catalonia (UPC). With these studies we expect to find new clues about the materials forming protoplanetary disks and about the main physical processes in the early stages of planetary accretion. That includes the enrichment in water and organic matter of the Earth or the formation of the early atmospheres, as chondrites are aggregates representative of the primordial components that formed the Solar System and particularly rich in volatiles. The group is also studying achondrites of Lunar or Martian origin to better understand the physics of transport to Earth and the shock processes which alter some of their minerals. In addition, we do monitoring of the photometric behavior of comets and asteroids to delve into the physicochemical processes taking place in their interiors.
The particles that are mainly reaching the Earth from comets and asteroids provide additional information about the structure of these so-called "minor bodies", together with clues on the sources of meteorites and Near Earth Objects (NEOs). In this complementary way to our meteorite studies we monitor the entrance of meteors and fireballs from 25 CCD and video stations spread all over continental Spain, which conform the Spanish Meteor and Fireball Network . From those stations we obtain stereoscopic images of the fireballs that allow us to reconstruct their trajectories and velocities thus obtaining valuable data about the physical properties and the heliocentric orbits of the meteoroids reaching the Earth. This inferred information provides additional insight into the structure and properties of the so called minor bodies, plus essential clues about the dynamic sources of meteorites and Near Earth Objects (NEOs) crossing the near-Earth space. The study of bolides allows getting dynamical information about the particles and in favorable cases identifying their parent bodies. On the other hand, the accurate analysis of their luminous trajectories in the atmosphere allows knowing the chemical composition (by emission spectroscopy) or answering key questions on the plausible meteorite survival for events going deep in the atmosphere. In fact, within the framework of this network the last meteorite falls in Spain were recovered: Villalbeto de la Peña (2004) and Puerto Lápice (2007). We have also recently identified Ardón L6 chondrite as a 1931 historic fall not previously recognized.