The Leiden/ESA Astrophysics Program for Summer Students (LEAPS) 2015
Leiden Observatory and ESA are pleased to welcome applications for the third edition of the LEAPS program. LEAPS is an opportunity for students with an interest in astronomy and astrophysics to perform a 10-12 week summer research project in collaboration with a research scientist from Leiden Observatory or ESA. The program is open to all students not currently engaged in a Ph.D. program, although we are most interested in students at the senior-undergraduate or masters level who are enthusiastic about research in astrophysics.
Students will be selected for the program based on their academic achievements and research potential, and will be matched to staff projects based on what they indicate their scientific interests to be. Research at Leiden Observatory and ESA takes place on a diverse array of topics (see below), and student projects will likely consist of anything from the analysis of data from world-class telescopes, to large computer simulations, to hands-on work in the astrochemistry laboratories.
Projects will begin in June 2015 and end before mid-September 2015. We expect to make as many as 20 appointments this year, depending on interest and the match of projects to students interests and skills. Details on the application process can be found below.
Leiden Observatory is a world-class institute for research in astronomy and astrophysics based in the Netherlands, approximately 35km from Amsterdam. The atmosphere at the observatory is dynamic, with approximately 100 faculty/research scientists and 70 graduate students engaged in astrophysical research on a wide range of topics. Major fields of interest include extrasolar planets, star formation, cosmology, galaxy formation, instrumentation, and astrochemistry. Multiple research projects will likely be available within these fields.
European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC/ESA)
ESTEC is the main technical centre for the European Space Agency (ESA), responsible for spacecraft integration. ESA develops and manages many types of space missions, from exploration, telecommunications, to earth and space science. The Research and Scientific Support Department at ESTEC consists of approximately 40 staff scientists, with research interests ranging from the geology of planets in our solar system, to plasma physics in the magnetosphere of the Earth, space weather, to observational astronomy with ESA's space missions such as Planck, Herschel, GAIA and EUCLID. Due to tight security requirements for entry to the ESTEC complex, students who work in collaboration with the ESTEC Research Fellows will be based primarily at Leiden Observatory and their advisor will meet with them on a regular basis.
Travel, Housing and Stipend
Students accepted into the LEAPS program will be provided with travel costs to/from Leiden. We will also provide housing accommodations near the observatory, as well as a modest stipend to help with living costs during the internship. Leiden is a small, picturesque university town located between the major cities of Amsterdam and The Hague. Summer is a beautiful time of year to be in Leiden, and we encourage LEAPS students to socialize and use their free time to enjoy the numerous summertime activities available in Holland. English is widely spoken throughout the Netherlands and international students should find it easy to live in the Leiden area. We are planning several field trips for LEAPS students including visits to the ESTEC complex where many ESA satellites are being built, and potentially to the LOFAR radio array, the world's largest low-frequency radio telescope.
How to Apply
The program is open to all international students provided they are not currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program. ESA projects are only available for students from ESA member or affiliate states (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Canada). Students from Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia and Slovenia (affilliate members) can also apply for ESA projects. The working language of the observatory is English, and students should be sufficiently proficient in English to perform a research project.
To apply, there will be a web submission form that will be openned in mid-December. The questions include selecting three projects from the Areas of Research list below that you are most interested in working on (research projects being collected). Please note that the submission page requires the creation of a username and password. On the submission page you are also required to submit the following (in PDF format please):
a one-page document describing your interest in an area of astrophysics research relevant to staff members (see below), as well as details of any previous research experience or relevant research skills (e.g., scientific computer programming).
the name and contact details of an academic who has been asked to submit a letter of reference for you. This person should be able to speak to your potential to carry out scientific research, rather than just your performance in undergraduate lectures. Letters of recommendation must be received by the application deadline, please make sure your referee is aware of this.
a transcript of undergraduate/masters level course grades.
a curriculum vitae (optional, but helpful).
Once you have submitted you application, or saved a draft version, an email will be sent to your reference letter writer requesting the letter. Students will be evaluated for participation in the program on the basis of their research potential and match to available projects in their area(s) of interest.
All fully-completed applications received by February 6, 2015, 23:59 CET will receive full consideration. We expect to inform all applicants on the outcome of their submission by early March.
Deadline for applications: February 6, 2015, 23:59 CET
If you have any questions about the application process or the program, please . If you want to know more about the projects on offer, please email the project supervisor directly by clicking on their name below.
LEAPS 2015 Poster:
Research Projects, Categories and Supervisors
These are the proposed research projects for LEAPS 2015. Please note that not all projects will go ahead and some may still
be added in the near future. Final funding decisions lie with the Faculty sponsors. And please make a note that if you are interested in an ESA project, to check if your state is an ESA member or affiliate state.
The study of the cosmic neutrinos of energies above 1017 eV, the so-called ultra-high
energy neutrinos, provides a unique view on the universe and may provide insight in
the origin of the most violent sources, such as gamma ray bursts, supernovae or even
The energy deposition of cosmic neutrinos in water induce a thermo-acoustic
signal, which can be detected using sensitive hydrophones. The expected neutrino
flux is however extremely low and the signal that neutrinos induce is small. TNO
is presently developing sensitive hydrophone technology that is based on fiber optics.
Optical fibers form a natural way to create a distributed sensing system. Using this
technology a large scale neutrino telescope can be built in the deep sea. TNO is aiming
for a prototype hydrophone which will form the building block of a future telescope.
Summerstudents have the possibility to participate to this project is the following
(i) Modelling of cosmic rays induced acoustic signal in a neutrino telescope.
(ii) Testing and optimzation of fiber optical hydrophone for a large scale neutrino
The work will be (partly) excuted in Delft, a short train ride from Leiden.
Disks form during the star formation process due to conservation of
angular momentum and the subsequent interaction of
the protostar and the disk leads to the formation of a bipolar outflow/jet.
The protostellar disks represent the building blocks
of planet (and possibly binary star) formation and the
strength of the protostellar jet is related to the mass accretion
process onto the protostar. Through the analysis of large samples
of protostars we can begin to examine the ensemble properties of protostellar disks
and jets, thereby gaining a better understanding of the star and planet formation
process as a whole.
The VLA has surveyed all protostars (~80) within the Perseus molecular cloud
at wavelengths of 8 mm, 1 cm, 4 cm, and 6.4 cm with a resolution better
than 0.1" (23 AU) at 8 mm. This wavelength range is sensitive to both
dust emission from the disks and thermal bremsstrahlung (free-free) emission
from the protostellar jet. The centimeter radio spectra
from the sources will be examined to determine the
relative contributions of dust and free-free emission
at each wavelength, enabling the circumstellar dust masses for each
object to be determined. Moreover, the free-free emission itself will be
used to characterize the properties of the protostellar jets relative
to the system luminosity and molecular outflows traced by CO emission.
Three is a crowd: The evolution of triple star systems with AMUSE
Type of project: stellar evolution, binaries, theoretical, computational
Stars tend to be formed in pairs, and many of these binaries are part of triple
star systems. Even though triples are common, the evolution of triples is an
uncharted territory for scientists. With the use of the Astrophysical
Multipurpose Software Environment -- AMUSE (www.amusecode.org) --, we
can simulate the evolution of triples for the first time. These simulations
combine stellar evolution with dynamics and stellar interactions.
In this project the student will use the triple evolution code to
study e.g. the formation and evolution of supernova type Ia progenitors
or low-mass X-ray binaries in triples (based on the student's scientific
interests). Questions are: What are the possible formation paths? How many
systems are formed through each paths? What are the characteristics of the
triples (e.g. period or mass ratio distributions) and how do these compare
The student will be tutored on the use of the triple evolution code
and AMUSE. AMUSE allows to simulate and model a broad variety of physical
processes including stellar evolution, gravitational dynamics, hydrodynamics,
and radiative transfer.
Finding the orientation of the stellar rotation axis
Type of project: observational, high resolution spectroscopy, high precision astrometry
While we know that all stars rotate, we don't have much information on the orientation of their rotation axis. For all we know, stars issued from the same cloud could all have their spin axes aligned!
Stellar formation theories predicts that this is not the case, and that chaos plays an important role in misaligning the spin axes. Yet, there aren't many techniques available to verify this statement: either imaging with long-baseline interferometry, or using spectro-astrometry on high-resolution spectra.
On one hand, interferometry is working very well on fast rotating stars, like Achenar, Vega, and Altair, but performs poorly on slowly rotating stars. On the other hand, spectro-astrometry is designed for slowly rotating stars, like Aldebaran, but is limited to very close ones.
The goal of the project is to apply the spectro-astrometric method to existing data, and hopefully find the position angle of a couple of stars.
Python or IDL programming skills are beneficial.
From smaller to larger hydrocarbon molecules
Type of project: Laboratory astrochemistry; Molecular spectroscopy
In our laboratory, we characterise the infrared spectroscopic behaviour of hydrocarbon
species that are of key interest to planet formation. Up until now, however, most
laboratory studies have been restricted to smaller molecules and not the large ones
expected to reign in space. To study large hydrocarbon molecules in the gas phase,
a new and unique mass spectrometry setup located inside the cavity of a free electron
laser, FELICE, was developed. In this project, the student will use and develop the
new state-of-the-art laboratory setup to produce and possibly measure the large
hydrocarbons of interest to astrochemistry. Furthermore, the student will use and
improve a simulation of the setup and thereby learn about the ion optics programme
SIMION. The project is interdisciplinary and involves collaboration with various
institutes and scientists.
Using Computational Tools to Study Planetary Nebulae
Type of project: circumstellar medium; planetary nebulae; computational calculations
When low- or intermediate-mass stars get old, they expel their external
layers to the interstellar medium. The exposed dense and hot core (which
is evolving to become a white dwarf star) ionizes the ejected material
producing the beautiful objects called planetary nebulae (check these
and this video).
These objects produce a rich radiation spectrum that can be used to study the
physical and chemical processes acting in planetary nebulae. This spectrum
can also be used to infer properties of the gas (e.g. density, temperature,
and chemical abundances) and of the central star (e.g. temperature and
luminosity). In this project, the student will use a computational code
to investigate planetary nebulae spectra and analyze the physical conditions
of their gaseous envelope. The student will learn about the physics and
chemistry in planetary nebulae (which can be applied to other photoionized
nebulae) and will receive training in the use of the computational code.
This project is part of a bigger project and may lead to publication.
All galaxies contain a central massive black hole, but
the majority are tame and quiet. A subset however accrete so much
material that their central regions outshine the combined light from
all their stars. These active galaxies sometimes also launch
megaparsec-scale radio-emitting jets, which shoot out perpendicularly
from the galaxy nucleus, earning themselves the title of 'radio
We think that radio galaxies play a key role in galaxy evolution by
regulating star formation in their cosmic neighbourhood. However, many
details of this process are unclear because of the difficulties in
studying this population across the history of the Universe. In this
summer project you will attempt to improve our understanding of these
objects with data from NASA's WISE infra-red satellite, combined with
existing samples of radio galaxies.
Probing massive star formation regions
Type of project: Observations, modelling, interferometry, disks
It remains unknown how the most massive stars in the universe are formed.
With a mass greater than eight times the mass of the Sun, these beasts form
rapidly while deeply embedded in their natal environments. There are far fewer
stars with such high masses than there are of lower masses. This, coupled with
the fact that they need heavily embedded environments with lots of gas and dust
to form, means most star forming sites harbouring massive stars are very distant
(> 1-2 kpc). In-order to probe their formation stages one must use interferometry
at millimetre wavelengths to examine dust and molecular emission at sub-arcsecond
resolution. Probing physical scales of a few 1000 au can provide an insights into
whether these sources form surrounded by disks as their much lower mass siblings.
This project entails working with millimetre wavelength interferometric data
with specific techniques to facilitate data reduction. With reduced data the
student will investigate whether it is possible to constrain the physical
components (e.g. velocity field, density distribution) from both the continuum
and the molecular emission. These constraints will help in answering one of the
most elusive and oldest questions in general star formation research: is the
formation of massive stars just a scaled up version from that of low-mass stars?
Simulating the dynamics of stars, planets and the rest with AMUSE
Type of project: simulations, computational, theoretical
The Astrophysical Multipurpose Software Environment --
AMUSE (www.amusecode.org) -- allows us to simulate a broad
variety of physical processes over a wide range of scales.
It uses the Python interface with existing numerical codes;
these can be combined and coupled to study multi-physics problems
including gravitational dynamics, stellar evolution, hydrodynamics,
and radiative transfer. The student will be tutored in the use of
AMUSE and apply it to an astrophysical question. The project could
for example investigate the dynamics of planets in star clusters or
study debris discs in planetary systems, but the topic is still
open and can be specified based on the student's scientific interests.
Accretion in embedded star forming regions
Type of project: star formation, observational, spectroscopy
The evolution of low mass stars and their circumstellar discs, where planet
formation takes place, have been well investigated through the study of optically
revealed star forming regions, with ages around 2-5 Myr. From these studies we
are starting to understanding the properties of the dynamic processes in these
systems, such as accretion, outflows, disk clearing and planet formation.
However to solve the remaining questions of star formation we now need to move
to younger, embedded regions, where the star-disk interaction processes are more
energetic and are more significant for the long term properties of the star itself.
Observations of young stars are more challenging as star forming regions are still
embedded by the parental molecular cloud. Now this can be done thanks to the spectra
already obtained with the new instrument KMOS, a multi-arm infrared imaging
spectrograph-(IFU), at the ESO-VLT.
In this project the student will address some of the unknowns of star formation.
As mass accretion is a key mechanism at this stage, the project will be primarily
focused on deriving accretion properties for these young stars from KMOS spectroscopy.
This will be done through the measurement of the strength of emission lines present in
the spectra. The task will then be to compare the accretion properties with their
stellar parameters, and putting these results in the context of older and more evolved
regions. Thus, this project will address the questions of whether accretion is more
energetic at this stage of stellar evolution and whether it shows the same dependencies
as those more evolved systems.
How do you make a millisecond pulsar?
Type of project: Theoretical, analytic and some computational work
Millisecond radio pulsars are neutron stars that emit beams of radio emission as
they spin extremely fast (the fastest one rotates once every 0.0017s -- about ten
times as fast as the blink of an eye!) The neutron star is thought to spin much
more slowly when it is born, and gets spun up through 'recycled' -- the neutron
star is in a binary and accrete gas from an accretion disk fed by its companion
star. Until a few years ago, however, no one knew for sure that 'recycling'
really happened -- all the neutron stars we saw were either accreting or radio
pulsars. Recently, though, scientists (including Caroline D'Angelo and Alessandro
Patruno at Leiden) have started to find and study 'transitional' pulsars -- neutron
stars that switch every few years between a state where they are accreting gas to a
state where they only show radio pulsations.
How do they switch between accretion and radio pulsation? What happens to the
accreting gas when the radio pulsar is switched on? We will look at these
questions theoretically, building a model of an accretion disk that considers
the competition between accretion from the star (which adds to the disk) and
the pulsar's strong wind (which destroys it). We will try to make predictions
about whether these disks could be hidden if they exist in the 'radio pulsar'
state, or whether the disk must always reform each time the state change takes place.
How many suns in the sky? - A stellar census of exoplanet systems
Type of project: Stars/Binaries, Data Reduction and Analysis
The past decade was a very fruitful period for exoplanet research with now over a
thousand confirmed systems that are known to harbor such enigmatic objects. Most of
these planets have been discovered indirectly. This was done either by measuring the
small periodic changes in radial velocity an orbiting planet introduces to its host
star or by detection of the slight dimming of the host star as a planet transits in front of it.
While these techniques have given us insight into a veritable zoo of exoplanets they
have the disadvantage of not providing any spatially resolved information of the systems.
In particular they are (usually) not able to determine if a given star is really a single
object or if in fact the system is comprised of multiple stellar objects. To understand
the influence of stellar multiplicity on the occurrence rate of exoplanets it is necessary
to use the largest available telescopes such as the ESO VLT to take high resolution images
of the known exoplanet host stars.
The interested applicant will work with archival data taken with the ESO VLT.
The goal will be to create a catalog of all available high resolution images of
exoplanet host stars. In cases where interesting companion candidates are discovered
they will be followed up either in the literature or with observation proposals.
In cases where no companion candidates are detected detection limits will be calculated.
Searching for diffuse radio emission from galaxy clusters
Type of project: Observations, radio, galaxy clusters, survey
Diffuse radio emission from the intracluster medium has been observed in only
50 galaxy clusters. The origin of this rare emission is still debated but the
currently favoured theory is that shocks and turbulence accelerate intracluster
electrons to produce substantial synchrotron emission. We are presently conducting
a low frequency radio survey that will be more sensitive to this type of emission
than any existing large area survey. In this project we will search for previously
unknown galaxy cluster signatures and estimate the number of these objects. We will
also examine the observational properties of the low frequency galaxy cluster
emission to enhance our understanding of the physical processes occuring within
the intracluster medium.
Modelling the light of galaxies: clues on their formation and evolution
Supervisor: (in collaboration with Prof. Marijn Franx (Leiden Observatory)
Type of project: Galaxy formation and evolution - comparing models with observations; ESA
Our understanding of how galaxies form and evolve has been revolutionized in the last
decade thanks to impressive progresses, both in observations and models.
On the observational side, multi-band photometric and spectroscopic all-sky surveys
(e.g. 2MASS, SDSS) have mapped millions of galaxies in the nearby Universe, while
the exquisite sensitivity of Hubble has allowed the detection of more than 10 000
galaxies at z > 5, when the Universe was less than
1 Gyr old. On the theoretical side, N-body simulations coupled with
semi-analytic models of galaxy formation, and cosmological hydrodynamic
simulations are routinely run to provide us with predictions of different
galaxy formation scenarios. In spite of these progresses, the comparison of
model predictions with observations relies on our ability to describe the
emission from stars and its transfer through the interstellar medium of galaxies.
This can be achieved by appealing to spectral evolution models and advanced
statistical techniques. In this project, the student will have access to a
sample of observations (provided by Prof.dr Marijn Franx) of galaxies at
intermediate-to-high redshift, for which multi-band photometry and
spectroscopy is available. The student is expected to analyse these
observation with a state-of-the-art spectral fitting code developed by
the mentor and yet to be published. This code has unique capabilities,
and will provide statistical constraints on the galaxies physical properties
(masses, ages and metallicities, dust content, star formation rate) which
will then be compared with predictions from galaxy formation models.
This project is expected to lead to a publication in an international refereed journal.
Looking at a habitable planet named Earth
Type of project: Exoplanet characterization; atmospheres; theory; ESA
Our understanding of exoplanetary atmospheres relies on the remote sensing
of radiation that, arising from the host star or the planet itself, becomes
imprinted with some of the planet’s atmospheric features. In the foreseeable
future, sophisticated instruments to be implemented in >30-m ground-based
telescopes and dedicated space missions will allow us to separate the radiation
of an Earth twin from the glare of its host star. At that moment, it will be
possible to address questions such as the occurrence of life on the planet by
searching for selected bio-signatures in its reflected and/or emitted spectrum.
In preparation for that moment, modelers have been setting up and testing the
tools with which one day the (one pixel, at first) images of Earth-like
exoplanets will be rationalized. As recent work has shown, the information
contained in spectra and color photometry of the one-pixel images will
inform us about aspects of the planet such as its atmospheric composition,
existence of clouds, and land/ocean partitioning. In this context, the
current project aims to investigate the information contained in
simulations and/or measurements from space of solar light reflected
by Earth as a whole. Conclusions from the work will help in the future
design of instrumentation for exoplanet characterization.
The two-dimensional velocity field of the Large Magellanic Cloud: The search for a central black hole
Type of project: Observations, Integral-Field Spectroscopy, Stellar Kinematics, Black Holes; ESA
The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is our third closest neighbour and one of the most challenging
dynamical environments. Kinematic studies have revealed a global structure, but its once regular
shape is distorted by the tidal interaction with the Milky Way. Especially the central regions
are strongly affected and centres obtained from various methods differ by more than a degree. A
precise knowledge of the central mean velocity field of the LMC, however, is crucial to grasp
the effects of tidal interaction on the internal dynamics. Furthermore, the exact position of
the kinematic center would enable the search for a massive central black hole. We have
obtained a large data set of integral-field spectroscopy with the new generation VLT
instrument MUSE to map the largest region in the LMC ever measured with integrated light
and to identify the kinematic center. This data is state of the art and the summer
student working on this project will have access to the data already pre-processed
and ready to analyse. The student will learn how to combine and optimise spectra with
low signal-to-noise and how to extract the kinematics. The goal of the project is to
construct a velocity map of the central region of the LMC and to search for the kinematic
center. Working with data from an integral-field unit will give a great insight in
Investigating the role of star formation in producing spinning dust emission
Type of project: Observational, stars, interstellar medium; ESA
Recent observations at microwave frequencies have identified a new componet
of emission from the interstellar medium within our Galaxy. This emission,
known as spinning dust emission, is produced by electric dipole emission
from small, rapidly spinning interstellar dust grains. All-sky observations
with the Planck satellite have identified 42 sources of this spinning dust
emission distribution across the Milky Way. The goal of this project is to
use data from the WISE satellite, to characterize the star formation activity
in each of these 42 sources and to investigate the possible connection between
the spinning dust emission and star formation.
Star-disk interaction at the dawn of planet formation
Type of project: star and planet formation; protoplanetary disks; winds/outflows; transitional disks; observational (spectroscopy); ESA
Star and planet formation is a very dynamic process. Young, forming stars actively
interact with the neighbouring environment: they accrete matter from their surrounding
protoplanetary disk and eject powerful outflows. Planets form within the disks while outflows
eventually promote the disk dispersal, which ends the planet formation process. Therefore,
studying the interplay between accretion, outflows and disk properties is necessary to
constrain the formation of stars and planets and their early evolution. Spectroscopy
offers us a powerful tool to probe these processes. This project is focused on the analysis
of the peculiar near-infrared helium 1083 nm emission line. This line simultaneously traces
both accretion and outflow processes. Studying the line in a large sample of objects at
different disk evolutionary stages allows us to pin-point some major open questions in
the field. In this project the student will address the question on the importance of
winds and outflows in the clearing process of the inner part of the disk during the
so-called transitional disk phase, a stage at which planet formation has already
started to happen. This will be done comparing the morphology, intensity, and properties
of this line with the known stellar and disk properties of objects at various stages of
disk evolution. The student will use already reduced spectra to be able to start the
analysis right away.
Hunting new protostellar X-ray jets
Type of project: Star formation; jets and outflows; X-rays; observational; spectro-imaging; ESA
Jets are among the most universal astrophysical phenomena. They are observed in objects
with central masses up to 10^10 solar masses (Active Galactic Nuclei), but also from young
stars with a mass of only a tenth of the solar mass (so-called brown dwarfs). Presumably,
the mechanism driving these jets is similar in all these objects. Jets launched by young stars
are often assumed representative for jets in general. They are the closest jets to Earth and
can be observed in great detail. However, our understanding of jets is still fragmentary.
For example, the detection of X-ray emission from stellar jets came to a big surprise as
this is unexpected in current theories. The X-rays indicate a new jet component
significantly faster and hotter than previously known. In this project, we aim at
identifying further objects with jet X-ray emission through the spatial offset
between star and jet. We will use X-ray data of nearby star forming regions to
constrain the occurrence of stellar X-ray jets and, thus, will advance our knowledge of jets in general.
How Academic Astronomers View Public Engagement initiatives
One of the reasons appointed by astronomers for not participating in Public
Engagement (PE) initiatives is the lack of recognition of their PE initiatives
to their career development (Ecklund EH, James SA, Lincoln AE (2012)). During this
project we will explore attitudes and motivations of academic astronomers towards
public engagement activities. Based on the conclusions of the study we will draw
some recommendations on how to improve their participation and how this can contribute
to their career development.
Astrochemical Conditions of Low-Mass Protostars with ALMA
Type of project: Observational, astrochemistry, protostars
Deep inside of protostellar cores, the initial physical and chemical conditions for the formation of stars and planetary systems can for the first time be regularly observed, thanks to the new ALMA interferometer. Located at 5 km altitude in the Chilean Andes, ALMA is the new leading facility in (sub)mm Astronomy.
In this project, the student will use molecular spectra from ALMA to study the physical conditions and chemistry in a small sample of protostellar cores on scales comparable to our own Solar System. For example, the analysis of the spectral lines will reveal the spatial distribution of complex organic molecules. This can then be compared to chemical models. Other examples include mapping the temperature distribution and gas motions, and the potential discovery of chemical species never before seen in protostars.
For high level data analysis and plotting we favor Python, therefore it will be useful if the student has some experience with scripting in Python.
CCD Detector correction for the Sentinel 5 UVNS atmosphere spectrometer
Type of project: Earth observation technique; CCD detector correction;Airbus DS-NI
The Sentinel-5 mission is dedicated to monitoring the atmospheric composition for the ESA/European Union Copernicus Atmosphere Services. The Sentinel-5 mission comprises an Ultraviolet Visible Near-infrared Shortwave (UVNS) spectrometer. This instrument is developed by Airbus and ESA and it will be launched in 2020 on EUMETSAT's polar-orbiting MetOp Second Generation satellite.
The Sentinel-5 UVNS spectrometer uses the sun-backscatter technique, i.e. it measures the sun irradiance both directly and scattered via the Earth atmosphere and derives the atmospheric trace gas concentration using known trace gas absorption cross-sections and the Lambert-Beer law. This spectroscopy needs to be very accurate because the absorptions are usually in the order of a percent and therefore percent level accuracy in the trace gas products requires 10-4 level accuracy in the spectroscopy.
The task in the LEAPS framework is to define an accurate correction for frame transfer smear, as present in the UVNS CCD detectors. This correction is essential for obtaining the 10-4 level overall instrument product accuracy, also for changing scenes.
The candidate will learn about the Sentinel-5 as a large space mission, its functioning as a highly accurate sensor and will contribute to an important subsection. The specific topic is important for many space sensors.
Understanding the formation of interstellar icy organics in star-forming regions
Type of project: Observational, astrochemistry, protostars, star formation
Low-mass stars and planetary systems like our solar system use to form in giant cold and dark clouds. Although mostly composed of gas, these clouds also contain a small amount of interstellar dust. This dust is nevertheless crucial because it acts as a catalyst for the formation of water and several organics, thought to be essential for the origin of life on planets, in the Interstellar Medium (ISM).
The isotopic fractionation of icy species can be used as a chemical tracer to understand the formation and the fate of interstellar ices. For example, formaldehyde and methanol, two basic organics that are thought to be at the origin of a richer chemistry leading ultimately to prebiotic molecules, are the two molecules showing the highest deuterium fractionation in the ISM with D/H ratios up to 50 %. In spite of the recent progress of astrochemical models and laboratory experiments, such high observed D/H ratios remain unexplained.
This research project aims at understanding the formation of interstellar ices, and in particular of organics, through a detailed modelling of their deuterium fractionation. The student will adapt state-of-the-art astrochemical models, and couple them with different types of physical models of star formation, to investigate the influence of several physical and chemical processes on the chemical composition of ices. A comparison with recent sub-millimetric observations of protostars and comets will allow us to put some constraints on the formation of these key compounds and eventually on their fate in the solar nebula.
Please note that the ESA projects are only available for students from ESA member or affiliate states (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Canada). Students from Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia and Slovenia (affilliate members) can also apply for ESA projects.
2013/2014 LEAPS Successes
Hannah Harris, a 2014 LEAPS student, and her advisor Pedro Russo published a paper in the Space Policy Journal, "The Influence of Social Movements on Space Astronomy Policy." See here.
Several other 2014 students are still working with their advisors to publish the results of their projects!
The 2013 group of LEAPS students performed very well and the first scientific publications are out!
Ryosuke Goto and his advisor Sean McGee published a paper on galaxy formation in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on his LEAPS project; "The stellar mass function and efficiency of galaxy formation with a varying initial mass function". See here.
Steffi Yen and her advisor, Adam Muzzin, presented a poster at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) winter meeting in Washington DC, "Searching for the Most Distant Galaxy Clusters". See here.
Fiona Thiessen and her advisor Sebastien Besse submitted a paper on Lunar surface composition and lava flows (figure below).
Conny Weber worked with Agnes Kospal on infrared variability of young stars in Chamaeleon which featured on a poster at the "The Universe Explored by Herschel" conference in Noordwijk (conference website). See the poster here.
Figure of the submitted paper by Fiona Thiessen, students of the LEAPS 2013 class. (a) M3 color composite image of the Imbrium basin (red: IBD1000, green: IBD2000, blue: R750 nm). Numbers indicate the basalt units mapped in this work. Large and spectrally bright craters are mapped separately in grey and were excluded from the basalt units. The surrounding highlands and kipuckas inside the Imbrium basin are also shown in grey. Dark strips correspond to portion of the lunar surface not observed with M3 using OP1B. (b) Eratosthenian basalt flows from Schaber  with flow phases I-III.
The 2013 LEAPS students (and some supervisors) on their visit to the Westerbork Radio telescope in Dwingeloo, the Netherlands.