Steven received his BSc from the University of Calgary in 2017, where he majored in honours astrophysics and honours physics. That summer, having
been awarded one of six Trottier excellence grants, he joined iREx as an intern working with his future MSc advisor Björn Benneke.
His present research is a continuation of the project he worked on that summer. This research analyzes transit observations obtained by HST of HAT-P-18b, a warm, Saturn-mass exoplanet. It utilizes the ExoTEP and SCARLET frameworks (both developed by Björn Benneke) to extract the transit spectrum and perform atmospheric modelling respectively. The latter involves both forward modelling, whereby parameters are input and various atmospheres simulated, as well as atmospheric retrieval, which takes the observed transit spectrum as input and attempts to simultaneously fit each of the atmospheric parameters to the data using an MCMC technique.
This analysis will lead to constraints on atmospheric properties such as metallicity (i.e. composition) and the presence of clouds or hazes in this planet’s atmosphere. The ultimate goal of analyses like this is to improve the interpretation of transit spectra for the broad diversity of known exoplanets which span a wide range in mass, size, and temperature. Such research is prudent preparation for similar observations to be obtained with JWST in the coming years.
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