Background Information for Dr. Eric Hintz
I have been teaching at BYU for 23 years now with a research focus on pulsating variable stars. I currently serve as the associate chair of the Department of Physics & Astronomy, with a focus on advocating for student needs. Recently I have been focused on the development of an array of robotic telescopes to study transiting planets, pulsating variable stars, solar system objects, and AGN variability.
Research Opportunities with Dr. Eric Hintz
Spectropolarimetry Measurements of Magnetic Fields in delta Scuti Variables
- This project makes use of the slight shape difference in spectral lines measured at different polarization angles
This is a project for which I'm currently seeking a graduate student
Astronomy Education Research
- Astronomy Education
I'm currently working on a project to develop a High School research competition based on pulsating variable stars. This is funded by a NASA Rocky Mountain Space Grant Consortium Mini Grant. We will provide variable star data to a number of high school teams that will then analyze the data and provide a final report that will be judged.
- Impact of Cadence on Variable Classifcation by Machine Learning
This is a project to examine how little data is needed to determine an accurate period in the pulsations of a short period variable star. There are many large survey programs running, or soon to be running, that find new variable stars. Through machine learning they try to classify these objects. However, for short period variables the classifications and periods determined, are often found to be wrong.
We are also examining the impact of space velocity on the measurements, phase jumps in the pulsation curve, and measurement errors.
We do observational work with a group of 7 robotic/remote telescopes that range from 6" to 1.8-m to follow-up on these new variables and modeling work to show the limits.
This is a program that is currently very active and where student help is needed. There is more data in hand than can easily be processed and analyzed.
- Light Curve Generation for Transiting Planets, Eclipsing Binaries, and Pulsating Variables
We have developed a number of robotic telescope systems on the observation deck of the Eyring Science Center. These range from 6" and 24". Most of the systems are currently capable of working the entire night robotically. We observe transiting planets, eclipsing binary systems, pulsating variables, and other systems that change in brightness. In some cases we really want to process the data as soon as possible to get the data sent to programs like the NASA TESS transit finding program. With the amount of data generated we just need help in processing the data. If someone were to work on this program they would get experience over a wide range of objects.
Always looking for new research students on these projects.
- Period Changes in Medium Amplitude delta Scuti Variables
In general, researchers consider there to be two groups of delta Scuti variables; the High Amplitude delta Scuti (HADS) and the Low Amplitude delta Scuti (LADS). However, the in between realm is interesting. The Medium Amplitide delta Scuti stars seems to show a range of changes in both amplitude and period. This makes them a very interesting group to monitor.
We are now adding some computer modeling to try to better understand these changes.
This is a place where there is always need for additional help. We will have 6 robotic telescopes running on every clear night by the summer of 2022. That means a lot of data to process and light curves to be determined.
- Spectrophotometic Comparison of H-alpha and H-beta Index
Traditionally the H-beta index has been used as a reddening free index to measure the surface temperature of stars. Prof. Joner in the department has developed a new H-alpha index that has great promise. We are working together to spectrophotometrically compare the two systems and the application of the system to a number of different types of objects.
- Spectroscopic Survey of Northern Sky delta Scuti Variables
To understand the nature of the delta Scuti variables in the instability strip one needs as much information as possible about the stars. However, an examination of the catalog of delta Scuti variables shows a lack of basic information on many of the group. Of the 247 delta Scuti stars visible in the northern hemisphere we currently have spectra of 242 of them. These need to be reduced to provide estimates of some basic stellar properties like [Fe/H], radial velocity, rotational velocity, and perhaps information on any binary companions.
- Variable Star Search in Open Clusters
We are currently searching for new low amplitude variable stars in a large sample of open clusters. The clusters cover a wide range of ages and will provide a evolutionary test of how the variable stars change with age. We are also looking for very small eclipses that might be the sign of a planet.