Chris Mann, PhD

- Victoria, British Columbia

Thoughts about Hawaii usually conjure up images of sun, surf and sand. But for Dr. Chris Mann, Hawaii is all about stargazing.

Chris is a postdoctoral research fellow with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) at the Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre in Victoria, BC. He works under the supervision of Dr. Christian Marois in the NEW EARTH Laboratory (NEW EARTH stands for NRC Extreme Wavefront control for Exoplanet Adaptive optics Research Topics at Herzberg). Chris is part of a team working on the Subaru Pathfinder Instrument for Detecting Exoplanets and Retrieving Spectra, or as it's more commonly known, SPIDERS.

"SPIDERS is essentially a very complex camera that will allow us to see faint exoplanets that sit beside stars that are millions or even billions times brighter," says Chris. "We're at a really exciting point in history where we are finally able to see exoplanets."

Exoplanets are planets that are beyond our solar system, orbiting a star other than our sun. They are typically studied through indirect methods. But using very precise instruments and modern techniques, researchers are now able to take direct images of these planets. SPIDERS allows astronomers to do this by carefully accounting for the earth's turbulent atmosphere and by separating the bright starlight from the faint planet light.

SPIDERS will be installed on the Subaru Telescope, an 8.2-metre optical-infrared telescope that is operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

Chris received his PhD from the Université de Montréal in 2023 and was hired at the NRC for his experience with astronomical image calibration. His colleagues have a wealth of technical and engineering experience, whereas Chris brings his astronomical science skill set to the team. It was this interdisciplinary collaboration that interested him in a postdoctoral position at the NRC.

"In a university setting, you don't often have researchers, engineers, technicians and support staff all in close contact," he explains. "This experience has been enlightening."

The other draw of the NRC's Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre is access to the local Dominion Astrophysical Observatory telescopes and the centre's connection to international facilities like the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and the Gemini Observatory. For Chris, these experiences are integral to taking the next steps in his career.

"Beyond the amazing science and technology being developed at the NRC, the research centre is simply full of great people. Everyone made me feel so welcome and I look forward to working here as long as I can manage it."

Learn more about the NRC's Postdoctoral Fellowship program and the Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre.

A number of vertical cylinders with some tubing are fastened to the top of a lab bench surface with many rows of holes, with a bright red laser in the background.

Elements of SPIDERS on an optical bench in the lab

Chris stands in front of a stone building wearing a blazer, a button-down shirt and jeans.

Chris conducts his research at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, BC