Undergraduate students interested in writing a Masters or PhD thesis at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy at a later date are encouraged to apply for a "Miniforschungsprojekt", literally "miniature research project" at the institute. Such projects are designed to bring students into early contact with astrophysical research. Sometimes, project work can be continued in the context of a Masters thesis.
The offer is aimed at students in physics, mathematics, computer science and related scientific areas. The topics offered here are also suitable for a summer internship at MPIA, details of which can be found here:
Miniforschung projects typically take between 6 and 8 weeks to complete and should be undertaken when classes are not in session. Subject areas include astronomical data analysis, numerical simulations, and work connected with the design and construction of new astronomical instruments.
If you're an undergraduate with one of the above-mentioned majors, you should also feel free to apply for internships outside of the Miniforschung framework. Just ask!
The following topics are available for Miniforschung projects:
The CoRoT-17b exoplanetary system – stellar spin-up via moderate planet migration due to
The exoplanet CoRoT-17b is a massive (2.4 MJupiter mass planet) on a tight orbit (3.8 days orbital period) around a very old main sequence star CoRoT-17 (age > 8 Gyrs). Earlier research (KU Leuven research projects) indicated that CoRoT-17 may rotate unusually fast for its age. Transfer of angular momentum from the planet's orbit to the star due to tidal friction is the most likely explanation for the unsually fast rotation. Normally, the rotation of main sequence stars should slow down with increasing age from rotation periods 1-10 days at Zero-age-main-sequence (ZAMS) to rotation periods of several tens of days towards the end of the main sequence. The slowing down of stellar rotation with age has indeed been observed and confirmed in stellar clusters of different ages. The mechanism behind the slowing down of stellar rotation is thought to be the „magnetic braking“-mechanism due to coupling of magnetic stellar field lines to the plasma (stellar wind) spiraling away from the rotating main sequence star. The goal of this project is to coherently model the possible rotational evolution of CoRoT-17 during the main sequence, taking into account changes in stellar stucture (with MESA), tidal interaction with its close massive planet and magnetic braking. The student will adapt and apply two tidal interaction schemes and magnetic braking models. In addition, uncertainties due to different starting conditions (initial stellar rotation at ZAMS) will be investigated. The models will allow to constrain the (highly disputed) efficiency of tidal friction forces that have been at work in the CoRoT-17b planetary system. Programming experience and knowledge about numerical methods would be beneficial but is not necessary. Simulation codes are available that can be adapted for the project.
Infrared Space Astronomy
The IR Space Astronomy Group at MPIA offers a variety of projects in the field of astronomy and instrumentation. More information about the group can be found on http://www.mpia.de/IRSPACE/.
Search for stellar systems with large separation
Most stars of our Galaxy have a stellar companion, but how the probability of a star having a companion depends e.g. on the star's mass is not well understood. More observations are needed, and in this project, we search new companions in the Solar neighbourhood: stellar companions separated widely from each other. Wide binaries can then be used to constrain the stellar formation models; to study the evolution of stars and brown dwarfs with time (because they have the same age and composition); to constrain the density for massive black holes (which would destroy wide binaries).
The student would search existing catalogues of proper motions (especially from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey; proper motion denotes the apparent movement of a star relative the celestial sphere) for pairs; select the most interesting pairs (low mass stars and brown dwarfs, very wide binaries) and reject chance or spurious associations. The student would also search for companions of known brown dwarfs using the new UKIDSS near infrared catalogue.
Search for nearby ultra-cool brown dwarfs
Brown dwarfs are compact objects whose small mass prevents them to sustain hydrogen burning as stars do. After their initial contraction phase they cool down. The coolest known objects have temperatures of 600K and are located at a few dozen light-years.
We have started searching for cool brown dwarfs in public surveys. To confirm and study the candidates, we perform follow-up photometry and astrometry using a 7-channel simultaneous imager on the ESO/MPG 2.2m telescope. In this project, the student will use an existing reduction pipeline to analyse the multi-band images, characterise the instrument and confirm our candidates.
Some knowledge in computing (LINUX, python) would be useful, knowledge of astronomy and data analysis is not necessary. Minimal duration: 1 month. The project is available immediately, and could be extended into a Diploma thesis project.
- Numerical experiments on turbulence in protoplanetary disks
- Super computing on 256-processor-machines
- Implementing parallel algorithms in C++
- Self-gravitation in accretion disks with SPH
- 3D visualizations of simulated data