ASIAA Summer Students Program
ASIAA Summer Student Program 2021
July 1 - August 31

2021 Project Description

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A search for exocomets in TESS time-series data

Data science
Signal analysis


Jonathan Marshall, Michihiro Takami, Alex Teachey, Sascha Zeegers, Ciska Kemper
Find out more about supervisors on ASIAA website

Task Description and Goals

Exocomets -- comets around other stars -- form within the gas- and dust-rich protoplanetary disc surrounding a young star. These bodies, along with asteroids, are planetesimals and make up the building blocks of planets. As time goes by, the original protoplanetary disc is removed but belts of planetesimals remain around the star, colliding and either forming planets or producing dust. This dust provides a detectable marker of a planetary system in both absorption (through transits and spectral lines) and emission (through scattering and re-radiation at infrared to millimetre wavelengths).

Long duration, high precision time-series photometry from satellite missions such as Kepler and TESS have revealed exocomets around an increasing number of main-sequence stars through detection of characteristic asymmetric, aperiodic dips in stellar lightcurves. These transit events are rare and unpredictable, and not associated with the presence of infrared emission indicating dust around those stars. Finding the origins of this phenomenon, and its implications for the architectures of planetary systems, is an area of active and ongoing research. However, only a few such systems have been identified to date.

In this project the student will search the publicly available archives of TESS for evidence of exocomets in observations of a well-defined sample of debris disc host stars. They will implement established methods from the literature to analyse the available TESS time-series data, identifying asymmetric transits typical of exocomets and characterising them where present.

Required Background

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