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Bachelor’s thesis projects
at the University Observatory

For general questions please contact A. Riffeser (arri@usm.lmu.de).

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

U. Hopp (hopp@usm.lmu.de), C. Gössl (cag@usm.lmu.de), A. Riffeser (arri@usm.lmu.de), F. Grupp (fug@usm.lmu.de), A. Hess (achim@usm.lmu.de), F. Lang-Bardl (flang@usm.lmu.de)

Project 1.1: Development and measurement of optical components and detectors for new instruments at the Wendelstein observatory (U. Hopp hopp@usm.lmu.de, F. Grupp, C. Gössl, F. Lang-Bardl)

Several new instruments and optical measuring devices are being developed for the new 2-m Wendelstein telescope. Optical components such as filters, glass fibres, lenses and electronic detectors (CCDs) have to be measured and tested. Projects in these areas can be assigned according to the student’s interests. They include lab work in Munich, development of small control scripts, as well as analysis and documentation of the measurements.

Project 1.2: Development and tests of electronic control systems for large telescopes (M. Häuser mhaeuser@usm.lmu.de, A. Hess achim@usm.lmu.de)

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.

Project 1.3: Characterization of the coronograph at the Wendelstein observatory (U. Hopp hopp@usm.lmu.de, F. Grupp)

Analyse and document the properties of the telescope regarding imaging and spectroscopy of the sun in white light, in Hα, as well as in spectral observations. A number of student lab manuals may be drafted in the course of this project.

Project 1.4: Literature work relating to astronomic instrument construction (U. Hopp hopp@usm.lmu.de, F. Grupp)

Documentation of new developments in instrument and telescope construction — including adjustment methods and environmental influence — are often only to be found in poorly available conference proceedings. The task is to critically look at and compile comments spread over many different courses. Current projects focus on SPIE contributions to wind loads of telescopic mounts, the cleaning and coating of telescope and instrumentation mirrors, and methods of mirror adjustment (e.g., Hartmann analysis).

Project 1.5: Development of instrument control software (C. Gössl cag@usm.lmu.de)

Prerequisite for this project is sound knowledge of and interest in programming. The construction of the instrumentation for the 2-m Wendelstein observatory telescope makes the development of subunit control software necessary. Task: Document the physical approach, the software solution as well as the integration of both in the whole system. Example: Automation of test rigs in the observatory labs or effective organisation of standard star data sets of the 40-cm telescope.

2. Stars and planets

T. Preibisch (preibisch@usm.lmu.de), J. Puls (uh101aw@usm.lmu.de), A. W. A. Pauldrach (uh10107@usm.lmu.de), T. Hoffmann (hoffmann@usm.lmu.de)

Project 2.1: Comoving frame radiative transfer in expanding atmospheres (J. Puls uh101aw@usm.lmu.de)

The physical parameters of hot stars are mainly determined from a comparison of observed and synthetic spectra, where the latter are calculated by means of so-called model atmosphere codes. One of the most important components of these simulations is the line radiation transport, which, because of the expansion of the outer atmospheres of these stars (= stellar winds), is conveniently solved in the comoving frame and described by a (hyperbolic) partial differential equation. In the numerical codes developed in our institute, a so-called implicit scheme is used, which is characterized by high stability, but relatively low accuracy. In this Bachelor’s thesis project, an alternative semi-implicit method allowing for a principally higher accuracy shall be implemented, tested, and compared with the implicit method.

Project 2.2: Correlation of X-ray emission and fundamental parameters of hot stars (T. Hoffmann hoffmann@usm.lmu.de, A. W. A. Pauldrach)

A possible correlation between the intensity of the X-ray emission and fundamental stellar parameters is to be investigated. This entails the simultaneous comparison of a sample of existing observed X-ray and UV spectra of hot stars with model spectra which will need to be calculated. This analysis will help to better understand the dynamic processes that lead to the production of X-ray radiation in these atmospheres. Programming experience in Fortran is required.

Project 2.3: Calculation of mass loss rates of extremely massive stars (A. W. A. Pauldrach uh10107@usm.lmu.de, T. Hoffmann)

Using a largely already existing program, mass loss rates are to be calculated for a model grid of extremely massive stars such as might arise in dense star clusters through collisions and merging processes. Such stars could conceivably have masses of up to a few thousand solar masses (see http://www.usm.uni-muenchen.de/people/adi/RevBer/HotStars-OForT-Mod.html). The data obtained represent important quantities for describing the evolution of such objects and to compute their spectra, and thereby check for the possible existence of such stars in present-day starburst clusters. Programming experience in Fortran is required.

Project 2.4: The future of astronomy – new telescopes for the discovery and characterization of exoplanets (Roberto Saglia saglia@mpe.mpg.de, Christian Obermeier chroberm@usm.lmu.de)

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.

Project 2.5: The statistical distribution of planets – an overview (Roberto Saglia saglia@mpe.mpg.de, Christian Obermeier chroberm@usm.lmu.de)

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 diverse. 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.

Project 2.6: The Rossiter-McLaughlin effect – measuring the stellar rotation axis through transits (Roberto Saglia saglia@mpe.mpg.de, Christian Obermeier chroberm@usm.lmu.de)

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.

Project 2.7: Super-Earths – properties and occurrence rates (Roberto Saglia saglia@mpe.mpg.de, Christian Obermeier chroberm@usm.lmu.de)

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.

3. Galaxies

H. Lesch (lesch@usm.lmu.de), R. Saglia (saglia@usm.lmu.de), J. Thomas (jthomas@mpe.mpg.de)

Project 3.1: Dynamos in galaxies (H. Lesch lesch@usm.lmu.de)

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 analytic calculations.

Project 3.2: Propagation of cosmic rays in the Galaxy (H. Lesch lesch@usm.lmu.de)

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.

Project 3.3: The age of a galaxy (R. Saglia saglia@usm.lmu.de)

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.

Project 3.4: Dynamical modeling of stellar disks (R. Saglia saglia@usm.lmu.de, J. Thomas jthomas@mpe.mpg.de)

Three-dimensional galaxies are often modeled using the Schwarzschild approach. 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 harmonics? 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 and implemented.

Project 3.5: The masses of supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies (R. Saglia saglia@usm.lmu.de)

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

J. Weller (weller@usm.lmu.de), R. Saglia (saglia@usm.lmu.de), J. Mohr (jmohr@usm.lmu.de), S. Seitz (stella@usm.lmu.de), A. Riffeser (arri@usm.lmu.de)

Project 4.1: Distances to supernovae in various cosmological models (J. Weller weller@usm.lmu.de)

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 extra dimensions.

Project 4.2: The size evolution of galaxies (R. Saglia saglia@usm.lmu.de)

The size of a galaxy changes during its life. Goal of the thesis is to summarize the results of the last years of published research. 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?

Project 4.3: Studying the strong lensing effect of galaxies using HST data (S. Seitz stella@usm.lmu.de, A. Riffeser arri@usm.lmu.de)

Due to the strong gravitational lens effect galaxies can map galaxies in their background in so-called Einstein rings or multiple images. You will study how the (dark plus luminous) matter in a foreground galaxy has to be distributed to reproduce the observed image configuration. You will use a public lens-source-reconstruction code and study several systems observed with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST).

5. Computational and theoretical astrophysics

A. Burkert (burkert@usm.lmu.de), B. Ercolano (ercolano@usm.lmu.de), K. Dolag (dolag@usm.lmu.de)

Bachelor’s and Master’s thesis projects in the field of computational and theoretical astrophysics can generally be offered from the following areas:

  • Structure of the turbulent interstellar medium (ISM) and the formation of molecular clouds
  • Formation of planets, stars, and stellar clusters
  • Stars and their influence on the surrounding interstellar matter
  • Radiative transfer
  • Formation and evolution of galaxies in a cosmological context (local galaxies to high redshifts, galaxy clusters, cosmic web, black holes, self-regulating star formation)
  • Galactic dynamics
  • Active galactic nuclei (AGN)
  • Origin and nature of the gas cloud G2 near the Galactic center
  • Structure and formation of dark-matter halos
  • Magnetic fields and their role on small to cosmic scales
  • Application and development of simulation software on parallel CPUs and GPUs (graphics processors); our hydrodynamic codes are particle- (SPH/N-body) or grid-based, or based on moving-mesh or meshless methods
  • Software for three-dimensional data visualization

Specific subjects are usually selected from the context of current research projects. More information on ongoing and completed projects can be found on the home page of the CAST group.

Last updated 2017 June 26 18:00 by Webmaster (webmaster@usm.uni-muenchen.de)