In short, it is the study of worlds beyond our solar system. By using some of the best telescopes both on Earth and in space, we can learn incredible new things about planets orbiting distant stars. From what exists in their atmospheres to how many might be out there.
The research area of my PhD is the detection of new planets using the transit method. This involves monitoring hundreds of thousands of stars, night in, night out, looking for the tiny decrease in light that occurs when a planet passes between us and it’s star. I am using data from one such survey, the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) and Kepler’s secondary mission (K2), and creating new methods to find longer-period planets than have previously been detected.
If that tickles your fancy, check out more (hopefully) interesting posts in my blog, Lost In Transits.
Lost in Transits: recent posts
12/2016 – For the first time, I am a co-author on a Nature (Astronomy) paper! We found the first example of varying exoplanetary weather on a giant exoplanet.
08/2016 – Back in Chile observing at the Swiss Telescope for a 2 week stint.
07/2016 – Just climbed Mont Blanc, (Western) Europe’s highest mountain.
09/2015 – Somehow, too many pub quizzes got me onto the 2015/2016 series of University Challenge! We got through to the last 16. The episode is here.
07/2015 – Presented my work at the UK’s National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, Wales. My talk abstract can be found here.
06/2015 – I’m back in Chile to observe on the Swiss Telescope. This time it’s deepest darkest winter though, so the nights are long and lots of work!
05/2015 – PhD Science Communication course. This included recording a radio show at BBC Warwickshire, writing press releases and article summaries and even tv interviews. Very useful!
04/2015 – I spent the last week as resident astronomer on the Astrotweeps twitter account. You can read my many updates on this storify, including discussions on WASP, NGTS, exo-moons, alien life and a whole lot more.
04/2015 – Gave my first talk at a proper conference, at the UK Exoplanet Community meeting. I’m told it went well. Plus I won a pint by saying “that’s no moon”!
01/2015 – I’m the guest on the Sound Science radio show at the Warwick Student Radio tomorrow. Will post the programme here when it becomes available online!
11/2014 – I’ve arrived in La Silla Observatory, Chile! I’m here to observe on the Swiss telescope for 2 weeks. This 1.2m telescope has one of the most precise spectrographs in the world (Coralie), which makes it perfect to find planets via the radial velocity method. I’ll let you know what I discover!
11/2014 – I have been selected as one of five contestants in the I’m A Scientist space zone. Students from across the UK will be sending questions our way for the next few weeks and whoever is voted to have answered the best, wins! UPDATE – I came second! Not too shabby, especially considering I’ve been here in Chile for the last week and unable to answer many questions at all!