Juan Cabrera


Juan Cabrera, PPT science performance coordinator, DLR, Berlin

Role: PPT Science Performance Coordinator

I finished my Physics studies in the Spanish Universidad Complutense in Madrid before flying to the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias as summer student in 2004. That summer I obtained one of the IAC International Grants to make a PhD in the Observatoire de Paris, under the direction of Jean Schneider and Eduardo Martín, on the detection of extrasolar planets. In Paris I had the great opportunity to work with data from the French-lead mission CoRoT, the first transit survey from space! CoRoT was a pioneer mission which found the first rocky planet with measured mass and radius (CoRoT-7b) and the first temperate transiting Jupiter planet (CoRoT-9b), among many other discoveries. My main contributions to the project were the development of new pipeline for the search for transiting planets (DST; Cabrera et al. 2012, A&A, 548, A44) and the coordination of the planet detection team during the last phases of the mission. The leader of the CoRoT detection team coordinated a group of several teams detecting and ranking planetary candidates before they were scheduled to ground-based follow-up facilities for the final confirmation of their planetary nature (see, for example, Cabrera et al. 2009, A&A, 506, 501).

In 2008 I moved to the Institute of Planetary Research in the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, DLR). I continued my work in CoRoT, but I also analyzed Kepler data (see Cabrera et al. 2014, ApJ, 781, 18) and I started my involvement in the scientific preparation of the transit detection tools for the PLATO mission.

In 2014 PLATO was selected by ESA and I acquired more responsibilities. Nowadays I belong to the PLATO Performance Team analyzing the scientific aspects of the mission. Our main task is to show that the payload fulfills the top-level scientific requirements regarding the stellar population observed, the accuracy in characterization of planetary parameters (mass and radius), the accuracy in characterization of stellar parameters (mass, radius and age), and the planet yield. We produce input for the verification of the science requirements of the mission and we also inform the PLATO Science Team on the performance of the current instrument design.

My goal is to make sure that PLATO can detect small planets, down to the size of the Earth, up to the habitable zone of stars like our Sun. Planets that could host life as we know it on Earth. I keep one foot on the payload, discussing and learning from engineers and colleagues, and another foot on the science, studying planet detection, planet validation (see Cabrera et al. 2017, A&A, 606, A75), and planet characterization.