About Me

Astronomy graduate student and admirer of stars.

Hello! My name is Ben, and I am currently a 2nd year graduate student at Boston University studying Astronomy. I got my Bachelor of Science from Clarkson University in May of 2016 with a major in Physics and a mathematics minor.

As an undergrad I worked on the binary system R81 in the Large Magellanic Cloud with Dr. Joshua Thomas at Clarkson University and Dr. Noel Richardson at University of Toledo. My research project focused on using spectra from the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory and long time sampled photometric data from All Sky Automated Survey to determine if there was a mass transfer taking place in this binary system. A more detailed description of my work can be found in the Research page of my website.

One of my current research projects is working with Dwarf Carbon Stars. Carbon stars have atmospheres that are saturated with carbon, giving them distinctive spectral features. It was thought that all carbon stars are post-main sequence stars that had their atmospheres polluted by dredge ups, bringing carbon to the surface. This made the discovery of a dwarf carbon star (dC) a surprise. One theory is that these dwarf carbon stars are the product of mass transfer from a higher mass companion. I am currently using SDSS spectra to help verify candidate dCs, with the plan of looking for systems currently in the mass transfer phase.

In my free time, I enjoy spending time relaxing and enjoy the company of friends and family. When the weather is nice in the summer, I like to hike and kayak, some of my favorite activities from growing up in the Adirondack Park in New York! I love to read and spend most of my commute time on the train reading a good mystery or thriller book. I also am a Netflix junkie and have an obsession with Supernatural, Friends, and I Love Lucy!

I am also a music enthusiast. I have a wide range of musical tastes and am pretty open to listening to any new music! Some of my favorite artists include: Coldplay, Simple Plan, Blink-182, Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, 2Cellos, Two Friends, Bowling For Soup, Katy Perry, and Adele. I also have a huge addiction to musicals. I will sing along to almost any musical I hear (which I have the lyrics memorized for). Some of my favorites are: Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera, and West Side Story.

If you have any interest in my research, or questions, feel free to email me at one of the email addresses below! I am always looking to share my interests with people and to help spread the awesomeness of astronomy to everyone!

 

Research

The main objective of my latest research project was to characterize a binary system, R81. in the Large Magellanic Cloud; with a secondary goal of finding traces of mass transfer via in-falling material on the secondary star. I used both photometric measurements from the All Sky Automated Survey (ASAS) and spectroscopic measurements from Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) provided by Dr. Noel Richardson of the University of Toledo.

My analysis used approximately 30 years coverage of photometric data from ASAS to refine the period given by Tubbesing et al. (2001). I used a multitude of photospheric lines to define a radial velocity curve for R81. However, the main line of interest for my project was the Hα line at 656.28nm. The Hα line comes from the shell of material surrounding the binary system and if there is in-falling material this is where the signature would show up.

One of my current research projects is working with Dwarf Carbon Stars. Carbon stars have atmospheres that are saturated with carbon, giving them distinctive spectral features. It was thought that all carbon stars are post-main sequence stars that had their atmospheres polluted by dredge ups, bringing carbon to the surface. This made the discovery of a dwarf carbon star (dC) a surprise. One theory is that these dwarf carbon stars are the product of mass transfer from a higher mass companion. I am currently using SDSS spectra to help verify candidate dCs, with the plan of looking for systems currently in the mass transfer phase.

The above images are from my work on this project. The left image shows a binned and phase-folded light curve for R81 from the ASAS data. The vertical red lines show the important phases in this system and more detail can be found in my thesis below. The right image is a dynamical spectrum for the Hα line showings its variability and intensity.

If you want to read more about this research project and the details of what went into it, feel free to read through my complete Honors Thesis. If you have any comments on how to improve this work please send me an email to one of the addresses below.

 

Gallery

Here are some of my favorite memories.