My name is Azib and I am a PhD student in Astronomy at the University of Warwick, working with Dr Grant Kennedy in the Discs Research Group. I am working on developing automated methods for photometric observations of Exocomets with TESS. I am interested in all things cometary, debris discs, and machine learning/data science amongst others.
Exocomets can be thought of as analogous to comets in our Solar System - small, icy bodies that sublimate as they approach the host star resulting in an ejection of gas and dust tail, and are thought of as the unused building blocks in planetary formation stages. In recent years, there has been increasing evidence of these cometary analogues in other systems due to the unique behaviour of some host stars. The most convincing evidence so far is the young star system Beta Pictoris (Zieba et al. 2019). Similar star systems such as KIC 3542116 and KIC 11084727 (Rappaport et al. 2018) have also been potential candidates that host exocomet families. Furthermroe, the detection of interstellar comets such as 2I/Borisov, which exhibit compositional similarities to Solar System comets, provide further motivation to learn more about these exominor bodies. As a result, the significance of exocomet detection will help us pribe into the structure and dynamics of exoplanetary systems, and infer whether these systems would be similar to our Solar System.
An automated method to detect exocomet-like transits was developed in Kennedy et al. 2019. I am building on the method used in the previous work and applying it to data from NASA's TESS mission. With the all-sky nature of TESS being a key feature of the data, reducing the bias of the star sample from only the Kepler field, we are able to explore many more systems, particularly younger stars. It is suggested in the literature that younger stars are a likely host for exocomets (from previous photometric and spectroscopic observations), and so this hypothesis can further be validated with the new TESS photometry.
In the past, I have also worked on Gaia spectroscopy. Ahead of Gaia Data Release 4, I worked with Dr George Seabroke and Dr Pablo Lemos on assesing the use of
polychord nested sampling to efficiently search binary orbital parameter space for >100 million stars.