Bachelor’s thesis projects
at the University Observatory
Some Bachelor’s projects can also be extended in scope and assigned to two students to work on the project together.
1. Instrumentation and observational projects
We at any time also offer other projects which are not listed below.
Just write an email and describe your interests and skills.
Diese Bachelorarbeit setzt Interesse an elektronischen Schaltungen
voraus. Im Rahmen des Baus des MICADO-Instruments für das
39-m-EELT-Teleskop in Chile sind diverse Mechanismen und elektronische
Steuerungskomponenten zu bauen und zu testen. Technologien und
Mechanismen müssen bei Raumtemperatur an der USM getestet
werden. Die Arbeit umfasst die Durchführung und Dokumentation
von Tests diverser motorisierter und sensorischer Hardware bei
Raumtemperatur zur Vorbereitung auf Tests bei 80 K in unserem
Kryostaten. Hierzu gehört beispielsweise auch die Automatisierung
von Testständen in den Laboren der Sternwarte. Es werden sowohl
komplett selbst entwickelte Elektronikkomponenten verwendet, als
auch industrielle Standardtechnologien wie CAN-BUS-Controller und
SPS-Steuerungen (Vorwissen wünschenswert aber nicht notwendig).
Zusätzlich kann je nach genauem Thema ein rein astrophysikalisches
Beobachtungs- und/oder Datenauswertungsprojekt in Zusammenarbeit mit
dem Wendelstein-Observatorium absolviert werden.
2. Stars and planets
The evolution of massive stars is in many phases
(even relatively close to the zero age main sequence – ZAMS)
not yet or only poorly understood, mainly due to the effects of
mass loss and rotation, and because in conventional simulations
multidimensional effects are often approximated by simple
1-D diffusion approaches.
Therefore, our working group (including many international
collaborators) tries to check and constrain the predictions of such
stellar evolutionary calculations, by means of so-called quantitative
To perform corresponding own simulations and tests, the open-source
stellar evolution code MESA has proven to be an excellent working tool.
The aim of the suggested Bachelor’s thesis project is, on the
one hand, to perform evolutionary calculations for different mass
ranges by means of MESA, and to compare the outcome with alternative
calculations from other codes.
On the other hand, appropriate adapters shall be developed, which
enable a fast and clear visualization of the various output data.
Further development of a program package for the automatic analysis of stellar spectra from massive stars
(J. Puls firstname.lastname@example.org)
To investigate the actual status and the evolution of massive
stars, and to understand and quantify the interaction with their
environment, these stars are studied by means of so-called quantitative
spectroscopy, i.e., by comparing observed and synthetic spectra.
The latter are derived using stellar atmosphere models.
Since in recent years large samples of massive star spectra were
secured, an automatic analysis is inevitable.
To this end, our (internationally connected) working group uses
comprehensive grids of atmospheric models, and stellar parameters
are derived from a best fit of synthetic and observed spectra.
The basic methods have already been developed, however the a-posteriori
distributions of the derived parameters are not yet sufficiently
The aim of this Bachelor’s thesis project is to link the
existing codes with an MCMC method (Markov Chain Monte Carlo) to
derive such distributions.
Programming experience and Python skills would be beneficial.
The future of astronomy – new telescopes for the discovery and characterization of exoplanets
(R. Saglia email@example.com)
Exoplanet research is a very active scientific area and a new
generation of telescopes is currently being developed in order to
study several of their aspects and add more discoveries.
The aim of this project is to provide an overview over telescopes
that are already in the planning stage and then give an outlook of
the future development of astronomical observations.
The statistical distribution of planets – an overview
(R. Saglia firstname.lastname@example.org)
Since the first discovery of an exoplanet in orbit around another
main-sequence star in the year 2000, there has been a fast-growing
number of exoplanet discoveries.
Detected by several number of methods, their properties are quite
Since the number of known exoplanets is now in the thousands it is
now possible to make statistical assessments of their occurrence rate
for given stellar types and the planet’s orbital periods.
The aim of this project is to collect all of the current data, present
each detection method and then discuss the results and their possible
differences based on the detection method.
The Rossiter-McLaughlin effect – measuring the stellar rotation axis through transits
(R. Saglia email@example.com)
The Rossiter-McLaughlin effect (RME) has been known for decades and
was initially proposed for the study of eclipsing binaries.
Using this effect, the primary star’s rotation axis can be
determined and this effect could first be applied to planet transits
only a few years ago.
The Wendelstein facility will soon be able to observe and measure this
effect as one of very few observatories by using the FOCES instrument.
The aim of this project is to describe the RME by compiling the
according literature and then give an overview of the current results
and their interesting implications for planet formation.
Super-Earths – properties and occurrence rates
(R. Saglia firstname.lastname@example.org)
Super-Earths, rocky planets with radii of more than twice of
Earth’s, are unknown in our own Solar system and are a distinct
population of planets.
The aim of this project is to describe this population, including
the detection methods used for their discovery, and then provide an
overview of their occurrence rate.
Then, the results of their – rapidly increasing – research
should be compiled.
Planetesimals are thought to form in gaseous disks surrounding young
stars, but the details are poorly understood.
An interesting possibility is that planetesimals actually only
form from scratch under special circumstances, and most stars simply
capture interstellar ones in their gaseous disk, which then trigger the
formation of further planetesimals from the solid material in the disk.
This project would be to estimate the number of such objects which
are captured in the disk of a forming star.
Depending on the interest of the student, this could be either
calculated using an analytical model of the time-dependent
gravitational potential well of the young star, or done numerically
by analyzing the gravitational potential of the gas in a simulation.
Small grains of solid material in space (dust) could be spun up as a
result of torques arising from the asymmetric grain structure and/or
the anisotropic radiation field.
It has been argued that the grains may spin so fast that they are
ripped apart by centrifugal force.
For this project, the student will study the associated literature
to develop an understanding of the size distribution and lifetime of
the grains that make up the interplanetary dust cloud.
They could then combine this information with existing models of the
grain disruption to determine whether centrifugal disruption plays
a role in shaping the dust population in our solar system.
In dense ISM regions, dust grains accrete a surface layer (mantle)
The thickness of this mantle is regulated by a balance between
accretion from the surrounding gas, and removal as a result of
transient heating following the passage of high-energy charged
particles (cosmic rays) through the dust grain.
We have recently shown that the balance of these two processes depends
on the size of the grain, and the aim now is to explore the mantle
growth in different interstellar environments.
We are looking for a student to study the mantle growth in various
environments with the assistance of an existing code, and to
determine how the mantle thickness varies depending on the dust
Dense gas in star-forming regions is heated predominantly by cosmic
A significant part of the heating is due to secondary electrons –
the electrons which are produced when a primary cosmic-ray particle
knocks an electron off of a molecule in the gas.
We have recently calculated the energy spectrum of such electrons.
These electrons lose their energy in a variety of ways, some of which
heat the gas, and some the dust.
We are looking for a student who will use available models for
different energy loss processes to calculate what fraction of the
energy goes to gas heating.
Available data allow us to construct a model of the density
distribution of a filament of dense gas, located in a nearby
These data also include measurements of the emission from two
different rotational levels of ammonia molecules, which could be used
to determine the gas temperature.
We are looking for a student to use the model of the gas density,
combined with a simple model of the spatial variability of the gas
temperature, and compare this to the measured ammonia emission.
This work would help us to test a recent theory that young stars act
as sources of cosmic rays which may heat the nearby gas.
3. Galaxies and AGN
All galaxies are magnetized. Where do galactic magnetic fields come
from, how are they maintained and how are they structured? These are
the questions we wish to answer. In this project we will develop
a model for the amplification of galactic magnetic fields based on
Propagation of cosmic rays in the Galaxy
(H. Lesch email@example.com)
Cosmic rays represent a small but high-pressure part of the
interstellar medium. Through their pressure on the magnetic fields,
cosmic rays contribute considerably to the galactic dynamo. In this
project we will analyse the properties of Galactic cosmic rays and
their impact on gamma-ray emission.
How do we measure the age of a galaxy?
The Bachelor’s thesis project should summarize the methods that
have been developed to reach this goal and their uncertainties.
If there is enough time, one can also derive a spectroscopic age from
data available for a selected number of objects.
Three-dimensional galaxies are often modeled using the Schwarzschild
One computes stellar orbits in a given gravitational potential and
superposes them to reproduce the available dataset.
The modeling of two-dimensional objects like galaxies with stellar
disks poses some yet unsolved questions.
How well can one compute the gravitational potential using spherical
What is the optimal amount of regularization?
How well can one describe real galaxies?
During the thesis project answers to these questions will be tested
The masses of supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies
(R. Saglia firstname.lastname@example.org)
How do we measure the masses of supermassive black holes at the centers
of galaxies? What are their uncertainties? How much mass is hidden in
supermassive black holes? The results of the recent research should
be critically summarized and discussed.
4. Cosmology, large-scale structure, and gravitational lensing
Distances to supernovae in various cosmological models
(J. Weller email@example.com)
The student will derive the correlation between distance and red shift
for different Friedmann Models. Boundary conditions to cosmological
parameters will be derived by comparison with supernova data. These
analyses are made with the aid of so-called Monte Carlo Markov chains.
If there is enough time, the analysis can be extended to models with
The size of a galaxy changes during its life.
Goal of the thesis is to summarize the results of the last years of
How do we measure the size of a galaxy?
What is the rate of change of the size of a galaxy with time?
Does it depend of the mass of the galaxy?
What are the mechanisms that drive the size change of galaxies?
Projects in the Physical Cosmology Group (Jochen Weller et al.)
5. Astrophysics and Cosmology with Machine Learning
We offer at any time various machine learning (ML) Bachelor’s thesis topics,
e.g., photometric redshifts with ML, statistical descriptions of
clusters of galaxies with ML, detecting rare (e.g., strongly lensed)
or ‘weird’ objects with ML.
We also offer topics which make use of convolutional neural networks
(CNN) in astrophysics and cosmology.
6. Computational and theoretical astrophysics
Research in the Computational Astrophysics Group (CAST) ranges from
the theoretical investigation of star and planet formation to studies
of processes on cosmological scales.
A variety of different, well-known numerical codes (such as Ramses,
Gadget, Sauron, Gandalf, Mocassin, and others) are used.
Primary investigations regard the formation, the structure, and
the evolution of protoplanetary disks, the formation of planetary
building blocks and planets, the relation between turbulence and phase
transitions in the multiphase interstellar medium (ISM), energetic
feedback processes, molecular cloud and star formation in galaxies, as
well as cosmological structure and galaxy formation and the interplay
between feedback processes, AGN, and galaxy evolution and their imprint
on the intergalactic medium (IGM) or the intercluster medium (ICM).
Thus, our group studies astrophysical processes on length scales
covering more than 14 orders of magnitude, from gigaparsec scales
of cosmological structures all the way down to sub-AU scales of dust
grains within protoplanetary disks.
It is now clear that small-scale processes like the condensation
of molecular clouds into stars, magnetic fields and the details of
heat transport as well as large-scale processes like gas infall from
the cosmic web into galaxies and environment are intimately coupled
and have to be investigated in a concerted effort.
The various past and ongoing projects within the CAST group cover
a link between the various scales and contribute to our understanding
of crucial aspects of the formation and evolution of stars and
protoplanetary disks, central black holes and AGNs, star-forming
regions and the ISM, galaxies and their IGM, galaxy clusters and the
ICM as well the large-scale structures in the universe.
They also also drive the continuous effort to develop and to apply
new numerical methods and the next generation of multi-scale codes
within the framework of numerical astrophysics.
Past and ongoing Bachelor’s and Master’s thesis projects
were always offered with respect to the individual strengths and
interests of the students and cover various areas in the field of
computational and theoretical astrophysics:
- Formation of large-scale cosmological structures (dark-matter
halos, galaxies, clusters of galaxies, role of black holes, magnetic
fields and non-thermal particles)
- Evolution and structure of the turbulent interstellar medium
(ISM physics, self-regulating star formation, formation of molecular
clouds, magnetic fields)
- Physics of galactic centers (active galactic nuclei, origin and
nature of the gas cloud G2 near the Galactic center)
- Formation of planets, stars, and stellar clusters (stars and
their influence on the surrounding protoplanetary disc, interstellar
matter, radiative transfer, dynamics of particles and planets in
- Application and development of numerical tools on parallel
CPUs and GPUs and visualization (particle-based
moving-mesh or meshless methods)
More detailed information on
ongoing and finished projects
as well as more detailed information on ongoing research can be
found on the web pages of the
Computational Astrophysics Group.