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McNair Scholars Program

David Coria


Education: Bachelor of Science in mathematics and physics (May 2020)

Currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in physics at the University of Kansas

McNair Project: Simplified Echellogram Data Reduction and Spectral Extraction via the Veloce Quick Look App (2019)

Mentors: Chris Tinney, Ph.D. (University of New South Wales), and Christoph Bergmann, Ph.D. (Heidelberg University)

The Veloce spectrograph is Australia’s new, million-dollar, fibre-fed echelle spectrograph. Currently housed alongside the 3.9-meter Anglo-Australian Telescope, Veloce measures radial velocities for M-dwarfs and Sun-like stars to a sub-meter/second precision. Via Doppler spectroscopy, otherwise known as the “radial velocity method”, Veloce serves to detect exoplanets (planets orbiting a star outside our own Solar System). Veloce’s main purpose is to follow up on targets previously selected by NASA’s exoplanet-hunting TESS mission. The goal for Veloce Quick Look is to have a first glance at a star’s spectrum as soon as the data is recorded. Veloce produces a vast amount of raw data from its science targets, but the data is not looked at right away because the complete data reduction process is slow and non-trivial. The quick-look app takes raw echellograms, performs only crucial reduction processes at ~km/s precision (rather than sub- m/s precision needed to detect exoplanets) to shorten processing time and gives a simple, reduced spectrum as an output. The app was intended for real-time data processing, to be used as soon as new spectra are recorded. The finalized app successfully produces plots of the stellar spectrum at various stages throughout processing as a means of checking the quality of the data. The information the app yields at this stage may be used to discern true exoplanets from false positives (such as binary systems) and to identify unsuitable targets (such as fast rotators), thus allowing the Veloce team to instead focus their observations on other, more favorable targets.