Current Research

The transit method has discovered more planets around other stars than any other planet discovery technique. However, nearly all searches find the planets by looking for periodic transit signals — accurate for most planets. But sometimes nearby planets can tug on each other's orbits, producing transit timing variations (TTVs) such that they don't transit perfectly periodically, and are thus missed by all the pipelines.

I'm developing the Quasi-periodic Automated Transit Search (QATS, pronounced cats) pipeline to find these planets that everyone else missed because of their TTVs. While QATS is designed with TTV planets in mind, I've also made sure it can detect periodic planets and works as a general purpose planet detection pipeline as well. I'm also working to refine its ability to detect single transit events, so the signal doesn't even have to be periodic.

I'm currently working to apply QATS to search for planets around stars observed by NASA's newest transit mission: TESS.

Beyond discovering planets, I want to explore the systems with TTVs more carefully and fully characterize them. I also plan to use the K2 and TESS planets to learn about how planetary systems evolve with stellar mass and age.

Finally, QATS can be used to search for "upside-down" transits; we found the first such example in Kepler. These self-lensing systems are caused by compact objects like white dwarfs, neutron stars, or black holes in binary systems. Instead of causing eclipses, when they pass in front of their companion star they lens its light and make the system periodically brighter. I'm working to find more such systems in TESS data.