In the 2016-2017 academic year we are offering one Part III project:
Characterising new eclipsing binary stars with the Next Generation Transit Survey
The Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) is a wide-field photometric survey designed to detect new transiting Neptune-sized exoplanets. As a natural consequence of obtaining high precision time-series photometry of millions of stars, we are detecting new eclipsing binaries (EBs). Detached, double-lined EBs (where the two stars are well-separated and the spectral features of both components can be measured) are very valuable objects as the masses and radii of both stars can be determined in a model-independent manner from the light and radial velocity curves of the system. When these reach a precision of a few percent or less, they provide one of the most powerful tests of stellar evolution models available. As these models underpin much of astrophysics, it is vital that they are tested as rigorously as possible.
This project will involve: i) detecting new EBs in NGTS data (using existing software), ii) automating the detection process, and iii) modelling their light curves with an EB model that utilises the Bayesian machinery of Gaussian process (GP) regression to determine stellar parameters. Furthermore, with additional information from other sources we can iv) obtain a better understanding of these objects with a view to constraining the low-mass end of the main sequence, which is currently severely under-constrained.
This project will be co-supervised by Prof. Didier Queloz and Dr. Edward Gillen (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please contact us for more information.