Santiago Center Stories: Columbia Astronomy Graduate Student Interns at Universidad Católica de Chile

March 26, 2018

Columbia Astronomy Graduate Student´s Interns at Universidad Católica de Chile

Emily Sandford, a graduate student in Columbia University's Astronomy Department, spent a month in Santiago working with Universidad Católica’s professor Andrés Jordán (an expert in observations of transiting exoplanets and member of the HATSouth exoplanet search team), and his former graduate student Néstor Espinoza (who is now a postdoc at Max PIanck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany).  Emily is the fifth Columbia student to participate in the exchange program on astrophysics between Columbia and Universidad Católica as part of the President's Global Innovation Fund (PGIF).

Emily's team worked on two projects: The first studied how the understanding of stellar surfaces affects conclusions about planets discovered orbiting those stars. The second project extended her recent work with Columbia’s Assistant Professor of Astronomy David Kipping about how to use the transits of planets on circular orbits to measure the densities of their host stars. “By modeling individual transits of long-period planets orbiting well-characterized stars, Andrés, Néstor, and I investigated how precise those measurements can hope to be”, Emily explained.

While in Chile, Emily also attended the Diversis Mundi conference at the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which brought together exoplanet and Solar System researchers to discuss planet formation and evolution in light of observations of ours and other planetary systems. She presented recent work she had done with Kipping on a new method of modeling anomalous transit-like events in stellar light curves. Finally, thanks to two of the ESO postdoctoral fellows she met at the conference, she had the opportunity to visit Paranal Observatory overnight and tour the Very Large Telescope.