LOWELL AMATEUR RESEARCH INITIATIVE

Research Opportunities

Introduction

Here we have listed Lowell's exciting research opportunities. After you find "your" projects, you should create your LARI account where you may tell us what you would like to do. We will try to match qualified applicants to the appropriate Lowell astronomer.

Currently Available Research Opportunities

  1. Code: HDLT - Deep sky images of dwarf galaxies,

    I would like to obtain ultra-deep images of a set of dwarf galaxies.

    An amateur with a reasonably large telescope and a quality CCD camera could do ultra-deep imaging over a wide field of view (of order 1 degree) around the LITTLE THINGS galaxies. This would require stacking many images to build up signal for an effective exposure time of order 12 or more hours. People who have done this have found amazing debris left over from galaxy-galaxy interactions or satellite cannibalism. I would like to have the region around all 41 of the LITTLE THINGS galaxies imaged like this, going extremely deep to look for stellar debris that would indicate a past interaction with another galaxy.

    Check this web site for more detailed information.
  2. Code: SEEP - Determine stellar rotation periods, find stellar eclipses, find giant planet transits

    I would like photometric measurements of low mass stars looking for rotation periods, eclipsing M dwarfs and transiting planets.

    Low mass stars (about half the mass of the Sun or smaller) make up 75% of the Galaxy's stars. We want to monitor young and active low mass stars (a.k.a. M dwarfs) to a) determine rotation periods as a function of age, b) look for eclipsing M dwarfs, of which less than 20 are known, and c) look for any transiting giant planets. This could be done with a good photometer in an optical bandpass, and perhaps even better with an H-alpha filter. Stellar magnitudes range from V = 11 to V = 17 mag but mainly 12 < V < 13 mag.
  3. Code: WLOI - Improve orbits of distant small bodies

    I would like to improve the orbits of Centaurs and Kuiper Belt Objects.

    Centaurs and KBOs often have relatively short orbital arcs. As a result, their orbital elements are inaccurate, resulting in inaccurate sky-plane position. I am looking for someone to take astrometric images of these objects. The constraint is that they are relatively faint. The Centaurs are rarely brighter than 18th mag and the KBOs rarely brighter than 20th mag. Thus, this project requires a fairly large telescope, moderately large field of view, and dark skies.
  4. Code: CKSL - Young Stellar Lightcurves

    I would like to monitor star forming regions in our galaxy searching for outburst events.

    Very young stars (i.e., age < 10 Million years) can demonstrate remarkable variability, particularly at optical wavelengths, where young stars have been seen to increase in brightness by factors of tens or hundreds. The physical mechanisms that produce these brightenings are poorly understood, however, with the most commonly suggested causes being a rapid increase in the star's accretion rate, or a large decrease in the amount and/or distribution of dust surrounding the star. Studying the physics behind these events requires many detailed observations over the course of the brightening event, with observations in the earliest phases being the most informative but also the most difficult to obtain, because they require catching the event shortly after it begins. Amateurs could provide critical assistance in this effort by photometrically monitoring star forming regions to identify new outburst events, which could then be scrutinized spectroscopically using Lowell's larger telescopes. An ideal observational program would obtain reliable (errors < 0.1 mag) photometry for young stars as faint as R ~ 19th magnitude, with data acquired on a regular (weekly?) basis. Multiple observers could contribute to this program, which would provide color information for each star, as well as help distribute the observational burden and protect against poor weather.
  5. Code: MGED - Discover extrasolar transients

    I need help in performing computer-based examination of photometric data looking for signs of periodic or transient events.

    Help us discover exoplanets, variable stars, and other transient objects. We have reduced photometric data for several fields near the Milky Way. The fields are 6x6 degrees and contain tens of thousands of stars from the 10th magnitude and fainter. The data would be suitable for identifying and classifying variable stars, other objects, and unidentified transiting planets.
  6. Code: BGBF - Data mining for photometry of selected stars

    I would like help in compiling good on-line photometric measurements of selected stars.

    Ultra-high-resolution observations of hundreds of stars with optical interferometers have determined their 1 to 3 milliarcsecond sizes to a precision of 10 to 100 microarcseconds. However, to use those angular sizes to provide measurements of effective temperature, photometry must be collected from online repositories and used to make measurements of stellar bolometric flux. An amateur with modest computer resources should be able to provide substantial assistance in improving the directly determined temperatures of stars.

    Check this web site for more detailed information.
  7. Code: ALIP - Historic Scientific Instrument Identification

    I would like help identifying Lowell Observatory's historic scientific instruments.

    Lowell Observatory has more than 500 scientific instruments that date back to the institution's early days, and we have been working with a photographer to document them. The images are online at the link below. To view all of the objects, leave the fields blank and click Search. We encourage you to browse the collection and help identify the instruments. If you have descriptions to contribute, or general questions about the project, please contact Lowell Observatory Archivist Lauren Amundson at 928-233-3265 or amundson@lowell.edu.

    Check this web site for more detailed information.
  8. Code: OASR - Spectrographic Time Series

    I want long term emission spectra from selected stars.

    We will observe objects that exhibit time-varying spectra where the amateur collaborator may spend weeks or even months at a time on a single target. The ability to spend this much time on a single object is crucial in building a complete time series of spectra of an object. We may also conduct simultaneous photometric measurements on the spectroscopic target. The amateur will perform the observations and to reduce them to a useful form. The amateur must have a large aperture telescope and a spectrometer. We expect that the amateur and professional will engage in extended dialogs about the science and technique of spectroscopy.

A Brashear telescope from conception to retirement to resurrection

This Brashear telescope, possibly the only remaining example, has been beautifully restored by Ralph Nye, a master machinest and avid astronomer. Each piece was restored or re-manufactured to pristine condition. Examples of Brashear images can be found throughout the LARI web pages.

   Perkins Telescope

Lowell's 72-inch Perkins telescope