Francesca Valsecchi
Francesca Valsecchi

Northwestern University

Department of Physics and Astronomy

Technological Institute

2145 Sheridan Road

Evanston, IL 60208, USA

Office: F219


I am a Postdoctoral Associate at the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA) at Northwestern University. My research focuses mainly on tides in binary systems. These include planetary systems hosting hot Jupiters and binaries hosting compact objects.



About 1800 planets have been confirmed through a variety of observational techniques and more than 4,000 new candidates have been provided by NASA's Kepler satellite. These discoveries have revealed that planetary systems exist in a much greater variety than theorists had ever imagined and some of the presently known systems hardly fit in the commonly invoked planet formation scenarios. My work targets tidal dissipation in planetary systems hosting hot Jupiters, giant planets that challenge our understanding of planet formation and evolution by revolving around their parent stars in tight orbits of only a few days. As such orbital configuration is expected to be tidally unstable, it is clear that tides must play a crucial role both in the formation and evolution of these systems, and in their long-term survival.

Compact Objects

M33 X-7

Compact objects (white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes) are the natural evolutionary endpoint of stars when they run out of nuclear fuel, and are among the densest objects populating the Universe. Although such objects in isolation are very difficult to observe, they become visible when they have a companion with which they interact. Black holes and neutron stars are detectable as X-Ray sources in systems known as X-ray binaries, where they are coupled with a star that is feeding matter to them. If, instead, the companion is another compact object, they are expected to be sources of the gravitational waves predicted by Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. Despite the wealth of available observational data, our physical understanding of compact objects extreme states is still lagging. Part of my research involves the development of theoretical models of observed systems, with the goal of shedding light on how compact objects form, evolve, and interact with their host environment.