School of Physics and Astronomy

M.Sc. Programmes at the Astronomy Unit: Projects

The research project is a major component of the Astrophysics MSc in the final year. It is a fantastic opportunity to acquire valuable research skills and carry out high level astrophysical work, supervised by a member of academic staff. 

The project gives you scope to work independently and critically on the topic of interest to you. It may be a theoretical topic, or it may involve computational work, or analysis of observational work by others. The project will normally require the study of original papers, show evidence of critical assessment and include a substantial component of independent work. 

You will be able to work in collaboration with research staff to find an area that aligns with your own interests, drawn from the wealth of research expertise in the School's Astronomy Unit

Example projects

As a guideline, previous years' projects have included the following examples. Students will often be able to tailor the details of their project based on their interests and the direction of their research.

Detection of rocky planets around nearby stars

After 15 years of discoveries, current techniques allow us to detect the elusive signals of very small planets. The two leading detection techniques are Doppler spectroscopy and transit photometry. Both techniques are especially sensitive to small planets in close-in orbits (periods shorter than a few days). In particular, we can now detect Earth-mass/size planets in that domain. In this project we will work with archival and new space-based photometric data (Kepler/NASA and COROT/ESA) and ground-based Doppler measurements (HARPS) to attempt detection of such small planets around our nearest stellar neighbours and some bright Kepler mission systems. To do this, we will use advanced data-analysis methods such as Bayesian inference and models including correlated noise.

Exploring the population of quasars and red compact galaxies.

Study of multicolour diagrams from infrared sky surveys including VISTA and WISE shows a significant population of point sources deviating from the locus of normal stars. Many of these are likely quasars, and some may also be compact red galaxies. The project will investigate these populations in more detail, and will involve significant database matching aspects including SQL and TopCat.

Models of the solar interior: problems and perspectives

The model of the solar internal structure, based on the standard assumptions of the stellar-evolution theory (often referred to as a standard solar model) revealed an almost adequate agreement with observational data over decades. The situation has changed dramatically when the revised spectroscopic measurements of solar metallicity brought the model into a drastic conflict with helioseismic measurements. A comprehensive overview of the problem is expected in this project, with critical analysis of possible suggested solutions.