Sabrina Côté-Maldonado

2017 Trottier iREx Summer Intern and B.Sc. student, Université de Montréal

Sabrina completed in 2017 the first year of her undergrad studies in physics at Université de Montréal. She is really enthusiast about the possibility to discover potentially habitable exoplanets.

During the summer of 2017, thanks to the Trottier summer intern excellence grant, she did an internship at iREx supervised by the professor René Doyon and the postdoctoral researcher Julien Rameau. She worked on the development of a program that enabled the identification of the spectral type of 51 Eridani b (51 Eri b), a giant exoplanet discovered by the Gemini Planet Imager in 2015. She also got familiar with infrared observations through observing missions at Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic.

Supervisors

René DoyonJulien Rameau

Interview with Sabrina on her 2017 internship (translated from French)
What was the topic of your internship?

The creation of a homogenous spectral library to analyse the spectrum of the exoplanet 51 Eri b.

What is interesting about it?

It was really interesting to study this planet, one of the few known that is similar in mass and distance to its host star to the giant planets in our own solar system.

What did you discovered? What is your most important result?

According to the comparison with my spectral library, 51 Eri b has a spectral of T7, which would correspond to a temperature of 825 K. This is hotter than what was previously found by Macintosh in 2015, but it could be explained by the fact the relationship I used to determined physical parameters using the spectral type was calibrated for older objects.  The homogenous spectral library that I have made will be useful for the analysis of other objects. As more young and low gravity objects are added to it, it will be more relevant to analyse objects like 51 Eri b.

What did you learn this summer?

I definitely improved my programming skills, and I am now much better to find information in various file formats. I also learned how to analyse spectra comparing them with reference ones. In general, I feel that I am now more autonomous to solve problems.

What was the biggest challenge during your internship?

The many programming errors which blocked my progression. Google became my best friend, and the others summer interns and other members of iREx brought precious help. It was great to see how everyone were getting along and helped each other. I would like to thank everybody for their contribution to the success of my project!

What did you like the most about your internship?

To obtain results after many weeks working on my code. It is such a great joy when you get results and they make sense. The regular progress I made all along the summer encouraged me to persevere through my internship. The analysis of the results at the end of the summer was also a very fun part, since I got to really understand thoroughly the astrophysics behind the programming.