Projects can be designed and agreed at the interview stage through discussion with staff. Below are projects already proposed.
Exoplanet mass function for nearby stars
The advent of powerful sub-mm observatories means that dust disks are now being routinely discovered around many nearby stars. The combination of alignment information with large numbers of radial velocity measurements offers the opportunity to construct a sample of nearby stars for which the planetary mass can be precisely determined. Previous determinations of planetary mass by radial velocities suffer from an orbital inclination uncertainty and those from transits rely on a mass-radius relationship. This project thus represents a direct method to determine the exoplanet mass function based on nearby stars. Much of the project will be concerned with quantifying the activity and geometric biases within the sample of nearby stars considered.
Comparison of Gaia results for resolved binary systems
The candidate will compile a list of known resolved double stars and will extract the Gaia solutions for these objects. They will compare the differences of the astrometric measures of all component combinations with the error estimates. These differences will be a direct check on the error estimates, highlight any magnitude correlations if present and will allow a test of small (<1 arcminute) vs large (>10 arcminute) correlated results. The testing will be carried out in an IDL environment with a sequence of procedures already available for the collection and comparison of datasets.
This project is to build the so-called EXOhSPEC prototype spectrograph (Exoplanet high resolution spectrograph). It will be entirely built from catalogue components but will utilise technologies not deployed in astronomical spectrographs. EXOhSPEC will be tested on the Sun and local stars both in the laboratory, on local automated telescope as well as with telescopes in Thailand. The final version is destined for the Thai National Telescope. It is intended to have the fewest possible optical surfaces for a high resolution spectrograph and its efficiency and small size will make it highly attractive. The key development that we wish to introduce is active metrology of the system which enables us to envisage a small athermal design made from off the shelf parts which is replicable and scalable. The aim of the project is to be able to build a prototype to significantly extend the reach of precision radial velocities to higher precisions and efficiencies.