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students inside observatory with large telescope

The BSU Observatory is home to the BSU Experimental Astrophysics Research (BEAR) Team, and supports additional undergraduate research related to astronomy courses.

The BEAR Team, funded by the NASA MASGC (Massachusetts Space Grant Consortium), is a group of students dedicated to observational astronomy research. They collect data using the equipment in our main dome, follow an observing schedule, participate in data analysis and develop research projects. Their research so far includes photometry of exoplanets, exoplanet candidates, asteroids and variable stars, studying the width-luminosity relation for type Ia supernovae, and most recently searching for kuiper belt objects. Several students also dabble in astrophotography. Some physics courses also require students to do research independently of the team.  Some examples of recent student research posters are listed below.

Student Research

The BSU Experimental Astrophysics Research (BEAR) Team

In September 2015, Bridgewater State University was awarded a MA NASA Space Grant to run a 1-year pilot observing program: the BSU Experimental Astrophysics Research (BEAR) Team. Since that time, the eight official student participants have observed multiple exoplanets, asteroid 2343 Siding Spring, and Supernova ASASSN - 16 ad among other targets, such as mystery star KIC 8462852 and various galaxies and nebulae. To see the poster produced on this topic, please follow this link.

John L'Heureux

As part of an ongoing effort to improve the quality of our photometry, John applied various levels of ensemble photometry to exoplanet data taken at the BSU Observatory and designed protocols for its future use at our institution. In the course of his initial experiment, he noticed an unexplained variation in brightness in a AAVSO reference star which he then investigated. Click here to read John's initial poster on ensemble photometryClick here to read his poster regarding reference star 000-BCF-128.

Adam Gustafson

When observing Type Ia Supernovae, a large portion of observational astronomers utilize the blue (B) pass-band filter because there is a well-studied relationship between the 15-day decline rate and the peak magnitude in B. Unfortunately, the B-band also tends to have a low signal to noise ratio compared to other bands. The Luminance pass-band filter can achieve a much higher signal to noise ratio than the B-band. However, very few observations of Type Ia supernovae in the Luminance band have been made.  Please follow this link to see Adam's poster on this topic.

Maria Patrone

As part of an ongoing effort to conduct exoplanet research using the BSU Observatory, we prepared and submitted data on exoplanet Qatar 1b to the Exoplanet Transit Database (ETD), collected, processed and analyzed supplementary data on Kepler Object of Interest (KOI) K03810.01, and studied methods of fitting exoplanet light curves. Please follow this link for more information.

Shane Johnson

Photometric observations of supernovae J081659.74+511233.7, ASASSN-15la, ASASSN-15li, and ASASSN-15ln were obtained with BSU’s 14” telescope and Apogee Alta U47 CCD on clear nights between February 27th, and July 13th, 2015. Images were processed in MaxIm DL and lightcurves of the supernovae generated using MaxIm DL’s differential photometry tool. Please follow this link to see Shane's poster on this topic.

Jessica Bamford

KIC 8462852 was observed by the Kepler Space Telescope from 2009-2013 and brought to the attention of scientists for its unique light curve with magnitude decreases up to ~20%. Thus far, no solid evidence exists to explain the light curve. We conducted a literary review of  observations for this star, and made new observations at BSU. For 13 nights from 05/31/2016 - 12/042016, this star was imaged at the BSU Observatory in B, V, R and luminance filters. During Spring 2017, we processed these images in MaxIm DL 6 to produce light curves for each filter. Please follow this link to see Jessica's poster on this topic.

Research in astronomy at BSU is not limited to imaging with our equipment. Other research projects have included statistical studies to determine how many stars in our galaxy have planets, determining stellar variability using the Planet Hunters database, identifying and studying areas of solar active regions, correlating solar flares with power outages on Earth, and more.

We have recently acquired a Baader Baches Echelle-Spectrograph, which we look forward to using for spectroscopy of variable stars and more!

telescope inside observatory
The BSU Observatory currently houses a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain as its main research instrument in addition to more than a dozen other telescopes.
student looking into telescope
The BSU Observatory provides equipment and support for university courses in astronomy.