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Student projects 2022

Summer student projects 2022


Going from Thousands to Millions: Visualising the Solar System in the Era of Rubin Observatory

Supervisors: Dr. Meg Schwamb, Dr. Grigori Fedorets, & Dr. Steph Merritt


The Rubin Observatory’s Legacy Survey of Space and Time is going to transform the field of planetary astronomy. The Rubin Observatory is an 8.4-m telescope currently under construction in Chile. The telescope will be equipped with the world’s largest camera. Starting in June 2024, the telescope will spend ten years surveying the entire visible night every three nights. This will effectively create a movie of the night sky that can be used to discover millions of small bodies residing in our own Solar System. LSST is expected to discover ~5 million asteroids, 10,000 active comets, and tens of thousands of icy Kuiper belt objects (KBOs).

With this unprecedented data set comes new challenges. We will need new software tools to visualise the orbits and properties of millions of data points in order to find interesting Solar System objects and new trends with the Solar System’s small body reservoirs. Going from plotting 4,000 orbits of today’s known KBOs to 40,000 requires using new modern plotting packages. The aim of this project will be to contribute a python package started last summer. The aim of the final software package is to plot and display the orbits and other various properties from a database of simulated LSST Solar System detections and develop a software utility for plotting the light curves (measurements of brightness over time) for Solar System objects in past wide-field surveys.


Required Background:

This project will mostly involve python programming, MySQL databases, and LINUX/UNIX operating systems. Experience with computer programming and python is a plus.  Familiarity with astronomy or planetary science is helpful, but not required.



Art in Astronomy

Supervisors: Lucy Dolan & Dr. Ernst de Mooij


An important aspect of scientific research is conveying science to the general public in order to engage people in astrophysics. There is now a wide range of science communication resources available online, making complex scientific concepts readily understandable for all ages. We are looking for a student to help create resources for scientific outreach in astrophysics, which can be presented to a public audience. The method of how this is done (short videos, animation, music, etc.) is dependent on the student's experience and interests, and at the discretion of the student and the supervising team. The goal of this project is to produce outreach materials such as cartoons, colouring books, animations etc. which can be social media, via a dedicated website or directly with schools. It will help promote interest in compelling astrophysics concepts, along with exhibiting the work being done here at Queen’s. Experience in some form of creative method is necessary for interested applicants, so as to produce high quality resources for outreach. Experience with artistic mediums such as drawing, painting, or graphic arts is a plus. A familiarity with astronomy / astrophysics is helpful but not essential.