Department of Physics and Astronomy

Degree projects in Astronomy and Space Physics

Astrophysics is the study of the behavior, physical properties, and dynamical processes of celestial objects and phenomena. Through its study one hopes to understand the formation and evolution of the universe and all its parts. Research at the department focuses on three main areas: our solar system, stars and their environments (including exoplanets), and galaxies and cosmology. The research aims to answer questions such as:

  • How and where did the atoms and molecules that make up our galaxy, our solar system and our planet form?
  • What do they tell us about the early universe and the Big Bang?
  • How do stars and planets form and evolve?
  • Is our solar system special?
  • How did stars and galaxies early in the universe differ from those today?
  • How did they affect the evolution at later times?

Our division offers a range of possible bachelor- and master projects in astrophysics related to these fields of research. We have assembled a list of researchers able to supervise projects with a short description of their fields of research and interests. Please feel welcome to contact any or all of them to discuss possible projects. 


Eric Stempels, Space Science Awareness (SSA)

Access to space and the use of satellites is part of modern life. Satellites provide communication networks and observation that form the basis of a multitude of services that improve the quality of life all over the world. However, like any resource, space needs monitoring and protection.

While there are only about 800 active satellites in orbit around Earth, 60 years of space exploration has left a large amount of space junk. The level of space junk is close to triggering a disastrous cascade of collisions that will pollute our closest space environment, and could threaten important services in our society. This has led to an international debate on how the use of space can be made safer by establishing an international awareness of objects in space, also known as "SSA". This effort requires an international network of sensors (cameras), all over the world, to detect and determine the orbits of all objects in space.

Sweden does not have any dedicated sensors for SSA, but there exist other scientific experiments and networks that monitor the sky, and that have the potential to detect objects orbiting the Earth. This thesis project aims to investigate the possibility to use the cameras of the Swedish Allsky Meteor Network to detect and characterize orbits of satellites and space junk. The results of this study will provide estimates of the required instrumental capacities of optical sensors and networks for SSA.

This project will be performed in collaboration with the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI).

Contact
Eric Stempels
Eric.Stempels@physics.uu.se
+46 (0)18-471 5994


Paul Barklem, atomic and molecular astrophysics

Atomic and Molecular physics lies at the foundation of much of modern astrophysics, since in most cases the only information we can obtain on celestial objects such as stars, comets, galaxies etc., is from the light they emit by atomic and molecular processes. My research focuses on theoretical modelling of processes of importance for our understanding of stars, the origin and evolution of the elements and molecules, and planet formation.

I offer a number of projects on atomic and molecular structure and processes and/or quantitative stellar spectroscopy and their application to a broad range of astrophysical problems as sketched above. Projects typically combine high-performance computing with high-quality observations from large telescopes (e.g. VLT, Keck, Magellan). 

Contact
Paul Barklem
Paul.Barklem@physics.uu.se
+46 (0)18-471 5981
http://www.astro.uu.se/~barklem/


Ulrike Heiter, stellar spectroscopy

The Milky Way Galaxy offers a vast area for the exploration of stars and their environments. My main scientific interest is in the physical and chemical properties of stars deduced from a combination of observed stellar spectra and stellar atmosphere models. Open star clusters are of particular interest. They provide a natural laboratory for testing models of stellar evolution, and most stars - including the Sun - were born in clusters. The study of planetary host stars is crucial for understanding the nature of extrasolar planets, from the most massive gas giants to Earth-like planets.

I offer supervision for projects related to spectroscopic studies of Milky Way stars (in the disk, in open clusters, and in planetary systems), and development of spectroscopic methods. They may be connected to large-scale international projects like the Gaia space mission or the Virtual Observatory. Examples for projects are given on my homepage, but students are welcome to contribute with their own ideas.

Contact
Ulrike Heiter
Ulrike.Heiter@physics.uu.se
+46 (0)18-471 5982
http://www.astro.uu.se/~ulrike/Teaching.html


Oleg Kochukhov, stellar magnetic fields

Observations of the Sun demonstrate that stellar surfaces are far from being quiet, stable environments. Stars have rapidly evolving magnetic field and spots. They vary on many time scales, from minutes (pulsations) to decades (activity cycles). My research is focused on observing these phenomena and building theoretical models of stellar magnetism, variability, and activity, with important implications for stellar physics, effects on terrestrial climate, formation of planetary systems and the origin of life.

I offer a range of projects in studies of stellar variability, magnetic fields, and star spots. This work is coupled with our ongoing research using state of the art space instruments and largest ground-based optical telescopes.

Contact
Oleg Kochukhov
Oleg.Kochukhov@physics.uu.se
+46 (0)18-471 5993
http://www.astro.uu.se/~oleg/


Andreas Korn, stellar spectroscopy 

My research focuses on low-mass stars like the Sun, in particular the outer layers from which we receive stellar photons. This starlight tells us how hot and heavy such stars are and what they are made of. As low-mass stars live for billions of years, they allow us to study the chemical history of the Milky Way. We may ultimately learn when and where the elements were produced that form the basis for complex life.

I offer various projects in quantitative stellar spectroscopy, often combining advanced modelling with observations from the largest telescopes (VLT, Keck).

Contact
Andreas Korn
Andreas.Korn@physics.uu.se
+46 (0)18-471 5994
http://www.astro.uu.se/~akorn/


Sofia Ramstedt, stellar winds

My research focuses on the final evolutionary stages of solar-like stars, i.e. the red giant phase and the formation of planetary nebulae. Red giant evolution is dominated by an intense stellar wind from the surface. The enriched material from the star is recycled, through the wind into the interstellar medium, and eventually used to build new stars. On smaller scales, it concerns the origin, as well as the future fate, of our own Solar system, and on larger scales, it contributes to our understanding of the chemical evolution of galaxies. 

I offer projects analyzing different types of astronomical observations of these stars. The projects are aimed at understanding the shaping and morphology of the outflows in the transition from red giant to planetary nebulae, or at determining the chemical composition of the material (gas and dust) in the wind. Somewhat depending on the project you will learn about stellar evolution, astrochemistry, radiative transfer, observational techniques, data reduction and image analysis. 

Contact
Sofia Ramstedt
Sofia.Ramstedt@physics.uu.se
+46 (0)18-471 5970


Projects within space and plasma physics 

We investigate what goes on in space using instruments we build ourselves and fly on spacecraft, ground based instruments, computer simulations and plasma theory. Also, we focus on the study of the basic small- and large-scale processes and fundamental physical principles which control the Earth's interaction with its space environment. Of particular interest are linear and non-linear dynamical processes involving space plasma and the associated exchange of energy, linear momentum, and angular momentum between plasma and radiation. 


More information

Here you can find more information about projects within space physics:

If you have questions about degree projects in astronomy, please contact:
info-astro@physics.uu.se