Research Fellow in Studies of Solar System Minor Planets

Queen's University Belfast

Postdoctorate Position Permanent Belfast, UK

Uploaded 7 May 2019

Job Description

Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship position in the study of the Solar System minor planets, funded by the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).The post, available up to 31st March 2021 in the first instance with the possibility of renewal depending on performance and  availability of funding, is located in the Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC) of the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen's University Belfast. The nominal starting date is October 1, 2019 or as soon thereafter as possible.

The Postdoctoral Research Fellow will work with Dr. Meg Schwamb to develop and exploit next-generation tools for analysing and interpreting future observations and Solar System moving object detections from the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). LSST science operations are planned to begin at the end of 2022, with the Survey expected to discover millions of asteroids and tens of thousands of distant Solar System minor planets. The post will focus on developing software pipelines and utilities for LSST Solar System science and applying these techniques to present-day LSST-precursor datasets. Depending on the interests of the successful candidate, this could include developing:

  • a Survey simulator to enable comparisons of model orbital and size/brightness distributions to SST moving object detections;
  • automatic algorithms to search the LSST alert stream and LSST Solar System moving object detections for cometary activity, catastrophic disruptions, impacts,significant brightening events, and other signs of activity;
  • a pipeline to find distant Solar System bodies at distances of greater than 200 au that are not expected to be discoverable with the main LSST Moving Object discovery algorithms.

The successful candidate will also have opportunity to undertake independent research and to collaborate with other astronomers and planetary scientists in the ARC. The Solar System Group is a vibrant research team within ARC, currently comprising 2 academic staff, one postdoctoral researcher and 6 PhD students. Group members make extensive use of a wide range of satellites and ground-based telescopes, including data from Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System), ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System), and Col-OSSOS (Colours of the Outer Solar System OriginsSurvey).

Person Specification

Applicants must have a PhD in astronomy, planetary science, or a related field, either awarded or with degree requirements completed by the time of taking up the post. They must also have experience in the reduction, analysis, and interpretation of ground-based or space-based astronomical imaging and/or spectroscopic datasets. A background in Solar System minor planet research is highly desirable. It is also desirable for the successful candidate to have a basic knowledge of orbits and ephemerides, have expertise workingwith large astronomical datasets, be fluent in python or other high-level language, and have experience in database usage (such as Postgress or SQL).

Applications should comprise a full CV, including a complete list of publications(highlighting up to five most relevant works), and a research statement(maximum two pages in length), describing your previous research experience, skill set, and future professional plans.