Below is a list of project ideas that either A) I am hoping to work on, or B) I would love a student or collaborator to work with. I am putting these ideas online in the hopes of attracting people to help work on them. If you see something you’d like to collaborate on, please reach out!

Astronomy Projects

SETI

  • SETI with Big Surveys
    • have written a short intro paper on the idea of SETI with big time domain surveys (Davenport 2019)
    • while optical surveys aren’t the typical data source for SETI work, we should mine them nonetheless!
    • Collaboration potential with LSST/Rubin, ZTF, TESS, and the Breakthrough Listen teams.
    • Actively looking to develop and collect ideas for signals!
  • The SETI Ellipsoid
    • Searching for signals/alerts in the SETI Ellipsoid (repo)
    • Gaia positions + ZTF alerts
    • Working with e.g. SN 1987A and galactic novae
  • Searching for “missing transits” in Kepler/K2/TESS
    • are there any exoplanet transits that are “missing”, i.e. should have been visible but didn’t occur?
    • a potential SETI signal, according to a Kipping & Teachey
    • some more detail in this blog post
  • Exploring Repeating but Non-Periodic Signals in Data
    • “Sequence Dispersion Minimization” (repo)
    • some interesting algorithm challenges - can we reproduce period-finding techniques using non-periodic patterns?
    • Fun with Fibonacci! Plus MANY other neat integer sequence available (OEIS)
  • Searching the Earth Transit Zone
  • VASCO Signals
  • SETI with Gaia
    • Cool idea for finding Dyson spheres using Gaia DR1 + Rave to outliers in distance between parallax and spectro-photometric estimates, from Zackrisson et al.(2018)
    • Update with bigger/better datasets! Newer Gaia (EDR3 as of early 2021), other sources of spectroscopy (LAMOST, APOGEE, SDSS)
    • Similar game can be played using photometry alone (photometric parallax), but with worse distance precision…
    • Could also search the Gaia Color-Mag diagram for outliers (i.e. points falling below subdwarfs, points between WD and Main Seq tracks)
      • I think this idea is new… and maybe “easy”!
  • Statistical Outliers
    • These might include outliers in spectral energy distribution (multi-color space), unusual variability, correlation between objects…
    • Also other tools for statistical explorations of variability to be explored (e.g. stumpy)
  • Others Ideas?
    • projects could include searches for Dyson spheres / megastructures, oddly moving objects (e.g. interstellar objects), laser pluses or emission…
    • further comparison of optical SETI versus traditional radio efforts (e.g. extending the Haystack volume metric)

Flares

  • Searching for Flare Rate Changes Over Time
    • This proposal has summer funding from TESS Cycle 3 for a UW Grad Student!
    • We’re looking for Activity Cycles
    • The Sun has ~10x change in flare rate between “max” and “min” of Solar Cycle
    • We have 4-year flare rates in Kepler that can be chopped into windows of time
    • TESS gives 10-year baseline for some stars!!
    • An initial search with Kepler showed this is interesting (Scoggins+2019)
    • Initial project with GJ 1243 using Kepler-TESS (Davenport+2020)
  • Fitting the Flare Freq. Distribution (FFD)
    • building out the FFD package for general use
    • how do we properly use 2D errors & incomplete data? Some thoughts here in comparing GJ 1243 to YZ CMi with TESS
    • Lots of work in developing a statistical test for comparing FFD’s
  • Decomposing Complex Flares
    • with L. Tovar Mendoza
    • Look at details of complex flares, like in this paper
    • Improve original version in this paper
    • use new flare model from L. Tovar Mendoza!
    • Good first project!

Binary Stars

  • Which Binaries are the “BEST”?
    • if we have millions of eclipsing binaries, which should we follow up?
    • working on paper draft based on TESS Online Sprint project
  • Disappearing Eclipsing Binary Stars - using TESS data, explore binary stars whose eclipse depths are changing.
    • There are at least TWO very interesting systems I know about that deserve papers based on their TESS data:
      • QX Cas - already disappeared, but TESS discovered new periods!
      • HS Hya - we think TESS observed the last eclipses from this system! (paper in prep)
    • There are more of these systems known, but need targeted analysis of TESS 30-min data
    • Systematic search (e.g. between TESS & Kepler/K2, or just within TESS) a good idea
      • especially using new FFI data from TESS!
    • Good first projects!
  • Orbit vs Rotation Periods for Eclipsing Binaries
    • Can we reproduce the mysterious clump of stars at Porb/Prot=0.87 found by Lurie+2017
    • tidal synchronization, a VERY GOOD mystery to work on…
    • Any correlation with system mass?
    • curate rotation periods for known EBs using samples from TESS/K2
    • Writing proposals to support this work
    • Good first project!
  • Eclipsing Binaries in Open Clusters
    • Useful for calibrating tidal evolution of stars! (w/ R. Barnes at UW) Writing proposals to support this work
    • Good project for funding proposal - mix of theory & observation
    • TESS will have a ton of OC’s to search for EB’s! (e.g. this work)
    • K2 still producing new EB’s worth studying (e.g. this paper)
    • Look at eccentricity versus period, tidal circularization
  • How many eclipsing binary stars do we expect to see in an open cluster?
    • A straight forward numerical question. Take all known probability distributions of stars/clusters/binaries, as well as observability constraints, and multiply them together.
    • compare to best known catalogs of eclipsing binaries in open clusters (e.g. M67). Do we get roughly the right number?
    • Can we improve constraint on eclipsing binary population statistics (e.g. period distribution) based on results of our forward modeling?
    • a few more details are in this blog post
    • Kepler/K2 data for M67 is now available
    • TESS will provide MANY clusters worth searching for EBs
    • Good first project!
  • Eclipsing Binary Stars across entire galaxies
    • use data from OGLE survey, over 48k binaries in SMC/LMC
    • look for variations in orbit period distribution
    • compare to star formation histories of SMC/LMC, look for connection to age
    • more thoughts on this blog post
  • Unresolved binaries from Gaia
    • started sketching idea out on GitHub
    • L. Anderson & D. Hogg doing similar work w/ wide binaries.
    • SO much structure in the CMD w/ Gaia DR2, there must be multiple PhD’s to be done here…
  • Tricycle: Looking for eclipsing binary systems with two rotation periods
    • “3 periods, 2 stars, 1 age”
    • Possibly interesting systems from standpoint of “gyrochronology”, as well as binary dynamics!
    • working with collaborators at UW (GitHub project)
    • so far has resulted in Lurie et al. (2017), and MORE NEW QUESTIONS!

More Star Stuff!

  • Searching for “Boyajian’s Star” analogs, in ZTF and elsewhere
    • We’ve started collaboratively working on this at DIRAC
      • Many off-shoots and ideas available still!
      • idea first outlined here for SDSS
      • a great student project to start exploring ZTF
  • SALTER: Stellar Active Latitudes with Transiting Exoplanet Residuals
    • working with B. Morris (repo)
    • using ensemble of transiting exoplanets to look for active latitudes, like we see on the Sun
    • Kepler/K2 data, maybe TESS?
  • Recovering differential rotation from Kepler light curves
    • use machine learning to learn features in the periodogram that correlate with differential rotation?
    • some more details are at this blog post
    • Despite excellent work showing it may be nearly impossible, I think there is still some room to explore here…
    • maybe use auto-encoders or other ML/Vision ideas?

Software & Algorithms

  • Creating a Python-based long slit spectroscopy pipeline for KOSMOS @ APO
    • Many programming and data analysis pieces available, big and small.
    • GitHub repo for previous effort (PyDIS)
    • project mantra
    • Active collaboration with Astropy in developing specreduce package!
  • Many projects in other groups above are primarily “coding” or algorithm based.

Recent Stuff

Projects from this page that students have recently picked up. If interested, still worth talking about!

  • Using WISE to look for variable stars
    • T. Dorn-Wallenstein working on this for massive stars
    • many other areas of star parameter space available!!
    • WISE provides ~7 year light curves, with very unique sampling, interesting challenge for e.g. GP modeling
    • Good for long-term variability, and some short term
    • One interesting (hair-brained) off-shoot: looking for transiting giant exoplanets, e.g. found w/ TESS (w/ E. Kruse)
  • Flare stars in TESS
    • S. Wallace working on this
    • looking for super flares, comparing rates across the sky for nearby stars
    • paper in prep
  • Finding Eclipsing Binaries in TESS
    • J. Birky working on aspects of this
    • Collaborating with Tim Brandt (UCSB), want to build a complete catalog
    • have some funding from Scialog2019 to support a grad student
  • The Shape of Stellar Flares versus Spectral Type
    • L. Tovar Mendoza is working on this
    • Use flare sample from active stars in Kepler
    • Look at classical flare morphology, like in this paper
    • Modeling flares with new models/techniques (e.g. Gaussian Processes)
    • Related: Searching for QPPs in flares, modeling with Gaussian Processes like in this repo
  • Stellar Rotation with K2 (and TESS)
    • T. Gordon working on this
    • use Gaia to filter out “junk”
    • working primarily with Ruth Angus
    • some thoughts on (many!) sub-projects here

Data Science Projects

I am currently cultivating a list of data exploration/visualization/science projects that would be good for non-astronomy minded people to work on. For some examples, see my blog (and especially my blog archive). If this interests you, please let me know!!!

I have expertise in science communication (e.g. blogging, video production), web development, data visualization, and making fun Twitter robots.

Cold Storage

Some thoughts I’m not actively pushing, but had listed at one point. Included for completeness… If these strike you as interesting, DO let me know!

  • Validating a weird short period Eclipsing Binary
    • I’ve got an object with data, and I think I know what it is, but need to analyze the data
    • would help to generate a full eclipsing binary model of the system using PHOEBE or similar
  • “Chemical cartography” using SDSS M dwarfs
    • given huge spectroscopic sample of M dwarfs from SDSS (and now LAMOST), can we use rough [Fe/H] measurements to trace abundances nearby?
    • can we re-cast these [Fe/H] measurements in to more useful relative line measurements, and/or use photometric colors?
    • I started working on this a few years ago, but have lost steam…
    • Now w/ Gaia we probably can say even more about this!
  • Stellar Activity variations using GALEX
    • can we see evidence of solar cycles or other long-term variability?
    • involves searching for “non stationary” variability (e.g. not periodic within data span)
    • some initial thoughts on this blog post
  • Project Dust Storm: Can we see the proper motions of dust within the Galaxy?
    • could we directly image (e.g. with ALMA) dust moving over a decade-long timeline? (I’m not sure how good ALMA’s astrometry is…)
    • could we imply clouds moving due to changes in the foreground dust extinction for background stars/objects over time?
    • Would be good to do order-of-magnitude calculation about spherical cloud of dust moving…
    • some more details of this longtime pet project are here
  • Lunar occultations of K2 targets
    • some ideas here
    • Maybe a great teaching project! (e.g. w/ MRO?)
  • Could circumbinary exoplanets form very tight (contact) binary systems?
    • some shaky details for this idea are here
  • Searching for M dwarf flares/variability in WISE
    • use the NEOWISE light curves
    • pick M dwarfs using J-W2 color
    • use best sampled light curves from polar regions with most visits
    • also look at previously known flaring M dwarfs
      • e.g (UV Ceti, AD Leo, YZ CMi, CN Leo, Proxima Cen…)
    • some looking @ M dwarf variability with WISE already

Attribution

This page was inspired by this blog by D. Hogg.