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:
Visualization of the life and death of molecules during formation of Solar System
Enormous amount of observational and simulation data on formation and destruction of various molecules in space, including organics and life-building "blocks" require sophisticated analysis tools. During formation of our Solar system and planetary systems around other stars cosmic matter undergoes through a variety of transformation processes: compression, shocks, irradiation, heating etc. The history of such evolution remains imprinted in chemical composition and physical properties of solids and various chemical species. A PSF group in MPIA has extensive expertise on modeling and understanding of key processes leading to molecular evolution at the verge of planet formation, including 1D/2D plotting routines and chemical analysis tools. The goal of this mini-project will be to develop a 3D or time-dependent 2D visualization tool of molecular evolution in the Solar nebula and other protoplanetary disks.
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
Fitting light curves of planetary transits
This project is related to the use of advanced codes to fit the light curves of known transiting hot-Jupiter extrasolar planets, with the aim to better characterize the structural parameters of these planetary systems. In addition, the presence of stellar spots and faculae on photosphere of the parent stars could been investigated as well as planet's radius variation as a function of the wavelength, which allows to probe their atmosphere. The student will work on high-quality scientific data collected at various medium-class telescopes, like the MPG/ESO 2.2m, the CA 2.2m, the Cassini 1.5m, and the CA 1.2m telescopes.