Exoplanet Atmospheres

In the summer of 2016 I completed a project with Jasmina Blecic on implementing a cloud model in the soon-to-be open source atmospheric retrieval code Pyrat-Bay. This work was done as part of the Kavli Summer Program in Astrophysics. My final paper for the program can be found here and the paper is in prep. My current research interests are in developing novel instrument designs for the characterization of exoplanetary atmospheres. My work on building an ultra-narrowband photometer capable of simultaneous imaging of a star in two adjacent bands is described in this paper. Future plans to upgrade this instrument and test it by measuring the potassium line in a hot Jupiter are underway.

Telluric Water Vapor Monitoring

waterfiltersWhile the close-in habitable zones of M-dwarfs make them ideal targets for searching for Earth-sized exoplanets, observations must be done in the near-IR, where these stars are the brightest. Unfortunately, ground-based NIR observations suffer from absorption lines that dominate this part of Earth’s atmospheric transmission spectrum (shown to the right). These temporally variable features complicate both photometry and spectroscopy. I completed a project to address this by developing the Camera for the Automatic Monitoring of Atmospheric Lines (CAMAL) that is an inexpensive, automated system for the real-time monitoring of atmospheric water vapor content. Measuring the precipitable water vapor concurrently with science observations will improve photometric precision for exoplanet detection, where atmospheric variability can easily obscure a potential detection. Check out the paper here.

Past Work

At the University of Chapel Hill I worked with Professor Sheila Kannappan and the RESOLVE team performing a dark matter census of a local volume of galaxies. With the RESOLVE data I studied galaxy properties as a function of their environment. I completed an honors thesis under Prof. Kannappan and Prof. Berlind that can be viewed here. I also worked with graduate student David Stark to publish a study of the possibility of star formation in the Smith Cloud, which is a high velocity cloud outside the plane of the Milky Way with high HI column densities.