Bachelor’s thesis projects
at the University Observatory
Some Bachelor’s projects can also be extended in scope and assigned to two students to work on the project together.
1. Instrumentation and observational projects
MICADO is one of four instruments that are currently under development
for the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT).
In this thesis we will test a rotating mechanism prototype in order
to determine the accuracy and repeatability of positioning of such
This prototype is a rotating platform that is driven by a stepper
The positions are defined by a passive notch mechanism.
The prototype represents a simplified model of a selector mechanism
that is being developed for the Multi-AO Imaging Camera for Deep
This selector mechanism will allow switching between the four
observational modes of the MICADO instrument.
These four modes are two imagers at different angular resolution,
a spectrograph and a coronographic mode.
MICADO covers wavelengths in the near-infrared (NIR) spectrum
For NIR measurements it is necessary to keep the optics and detectors
inside a cryostat.
This cryostat will operate at a temperature of 80 K.
Development and measurement of optical components and detectors for new instruments at the Wendelstein observatory
(U. Hopp email@example.com,
Several new instruments and optical measuring devices are being
developed for the new 2-m Wendelstein telescope. Optical
components such as filters, glass fibres, lenses and electronic
detectors (CCDs) have to be measured and tested. Projects in these
areas can be assigned according to the student’s interests.
They include lab work in Munich, development of small control scripts,
as well as analysis and documentation of the measurements.
Diese Bachelorarbeit setzt Interesse an elektronischen Schaltungen
voraus. Im Rahmen des Baus des MICADO-Instruments für das
39-m-EELT-Teleskop in Chile sind diverse Mechanismen und elektronische
Steuerungskomponenten zu bauen und zu testen. Technologien und
Mechanismen müssen bei Raumtemperatur an der USM getestet
werden. Die Arbeit umfasst die Durchführung und Dokumentation
von Tests diverser motorisierter und sensorischer Hardware bei
Raumtemperatur zur Vorbereitung auf Tests bei 80 K in unserem
Kryostaten. Hierzu gehört beispielsweise auch die Automatisierung
von Testständen in den Laboren der Sternwarte. Es werden sowohl
komplett selbst entwickelte Elektronikkomponenten verwendet, als
auch industrielle Standardtechnologien wie CAN-BUS-Controller und
SPS-Steuerungen (Vorwissen wünschenswert aber nicht notwendig).
Zusätzlich kann je nach genauem Thema ein rein astrophysikalisches
Beobachtungs- und/oder Datenauswertungsprojekt in Zusammenarbeit mit
dem Wendelstein-Observatorium absolviert werden.
Literature work relating to astronomic instrument construction
(U. Hopp firstname.lastname@example.org,
Documentation of new developments in instrument and telescope
construction – including adjustment methods and environmental
influence – are often only to be found in poorly available
conference proceedings. The task is to critically look at and compile
comments spread over many different courses. Current projects
focus on SPIE contributions to wind loads of telescopic mounts,
the cleaning and coating of telescope and instrumentation mirrors,
and methods of mirror adjustment (e.g., Hartmann analysis).
Development of instrument control software
(C. Gössl email@example.com)
Prerequisite for this project is sound knowledge of and interest in
programming. The construction of the instrumentation for the 2-m
Wendelstein observatory telescope makes the development of subunit
control software necessary. Task: Document the physical approach,
the software solution as well as the integration of both in the
whole system. Example: Automation of test rigs in the observatory
labs or effective organisation of standard star data sets of the
2. Stars and planets
The evolution of massive stars is in many phases
(even relatively close to the zero age main sequence – ZAMS)
not yet or only poorly understood, mainly due to the effects of
mass loss and rotation, and because in conventional simulations
multidimensional effects are often approximated by simple
1-D diffusion approaches.
Therefore, our working group (including many international
collaborators) tries to check and constrain the predictions of such
stellar evolutionary calculations, by means of so-called quantitative
To perform corresponding own simulations and tests, the open-source
stellar evolution code MESA has proven to be an excellent working tool.
The aim of the suggested Bachelor’s thesis project is, on the
one hand, to perform evolutionary calculations for different mass
ranges by means of MESA, and to compare the outcome with alternative
calculations from other codes.
On the other hand, appropriate adapters shall be developed, which
enable a fast and clear visualization of the various output data.
Further development of a program package for the automatic analysis of stellar spectra from massive stars
(J. Puls firstname.lastname@example.org)
To investigate the actual status and the evolution of massive
stars, and to understand and quantify the interaction with their
environment, these stars are studied by means of so-called quantitative
spectroscopy, i.e., by comparing observed and synthetic spectra.
The latter are derived using stellar atmosphere models.
Since in recent years large samples of massive star spectra were
secured, an automatic analysis is inevitable.
To this end, our (internationally connected) working group uses
comprehensive grids of atmospheric models, and stellar parameters
are derived from a best fit of synthetic and observed spectra.
The basic methods have already been developed, however the a-posteriori
distributions of the derived parameters are not yet sufficiently
The aim of this Bachelor’s thesis project is to link the
existing codes with an MCMC method (Markov Chain Monte Carlo) to
derive such distributions.
Programming experience and Python skills would be beneficial.
Correlation of X-ray emission and fundamental parameters of hot stars
(T. Hoffmann email@example.com,
A. W. A. Pauldrach)
A possible correlation between the intensity of the X-ray emission and
fundamental stellar parameters is to be investigated. This entails
the simultaneous comparison of a sample of existing observed X-ray
and UV spectra of hot stars with model spectra which will need to
be calculated. This analysis will help to better understand the
dynamic processes that lead to the production of X-ray radiation in
Programming experience in Fortran is required.
Calculation of mass loss rates of extremely massive stars
(A. W. A. Pauldrach firstname.lastname@example.org,
Using a largely already existing program,
mass loss rates are to be calculated for a model grid of extremely massive stars
such as might arise in dense star clusters through collisions and merging processes.
Such stars could conceivably have masses of up to a few thousand solar masses
The data obtained represent important quantities for describing the evolution of such objects
and to compute their spectra, and thereby check for the possible existence
of such stars in present-day starburst clusters.
Programming experience in Fortran is required.
The future of astronomy – new telescopes for the discovery and characterization of exoplanets
(Roberto Saglia email@example.com,
Christian Obermeier firstname.lastname@example.org)
Exoplanet research is a very active scientific area and a new
generation of telescopes is currently being developed in order to
study several of their aspects and add more discoveries.
The aim of this project is to provide an overview over telescopes
that are already in the planning stage and then give an outlook of
the future development of astronomical observations.
Since the first discovery of an exoplanet in orbit around another
main-sequence star in the year 2000, there has been a fast-growing
number of exoplanet discoveries.
Detected by several number of methods, their properties are quite
Since the number of known exoplanets is now in the thousands it is
now possible to make statistical assessments of their occurrence rate
for given stellar types and the planet’s orbital periods.
The aim of this project is to collect all of the current data, present
each detection method and then discuss the results and their possible
differences based on the detection method.
The Rossiter-McLaughlin effect (RME) has been known for decades and
was initially proposed for the study of eclipsing binaries.
Using this effect, the primary star’s rotation axis can be
determined and this effect could first be applied to planet transits
only a few years ago.
The Wendelstein facility will soon be able to observe and measure this
effect as one of very few observatories by using the FOCES instrument.
The aim of this project is to describe the RME by compiling the
according literature and then give an overview of the current results
and their interesting implications for planet formation.
Super-Earths, rocky planets with radii of more than twice of
Earth’s, are unknown in our own Solar system and are a distinct
population of planets.
The aim of this project is to describe this population, including
the detection methods used for their discovery, and then provide an
overview of their occurrence rate.
Then, the results of their – rapidly increasing – research
should be compiled.
3. Galaxies and AGN
All galaxies are magnetized. Where do galactic magnetic fields come
from, how are they maintained and how are they structured? These are
the questions we wish to answer. In this project we will develop
a model for the amplification of galactic magnetic fields based on
Propagation of cosmic rays in the Galaxy
(H. Lesch email@example.com)
Cosmic rays represent a small but high-pressure part of the
interstellar medium. Through their pressure on the magnetic fields,
cosmic rays contribute considerably to the galactic dynamo. In this
project we will analyse the properties of Galactic cosmic rays and
their impact on gamma-ray emission.
How do we measure the age of a galaxy?
The Bachelor’s thesis project should summarize the methods that
have been developed to reach this goal and their uncertainties.
If there is enough time, one can also derive a spectroscopic age from
data available for a selected number of objects.
Three-dimensional galaxies are often modeled using the Schwarzschild
One computes stellar orbits in a given gravitational potential and
superposes them to reproduce the available dataset.
The modeling of two-dimensional objects like galaxies with stellar
disks poses some yet unsolved questions.
How well can one compute the gravitational potential using spherical
What is the optimal amount of regularization?
How well can one describe real galaxies?
During the thesis project answers to these questions will be tested
The masses of supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies
(R. Saglia firstname.lastname@example.org)
How do we measure the masses of supermassive black holes at the centers
of galaxies? What are their uncertainties? How much mass is hidden in
supermassive black holes? The results of the recent research should
be critically summarized and discussed.
4. Cosmology, large-scale structure, and gravitational lensing
Distances to supernovae in various cosmological models
(J. Weller email@example.com)
The student will derive the correlation between distance and red shift
for different Friedmann Models. Boundary conditions to cosmological
parameters will be derived by comparison with supernova data. These
analyses are made with the aid of so-called Monte Carlo Markov chains.
If there is enough time, the analysis can be extended to models with
The size of a galaxy changes during its life.
Goal of the thesis is to summarize the results of the last years of
How do we measure the size of a galaxy?
What is the rate of change of the size of a galaxy with time?
Does it depend of the mass of the galaxy?
What are the mechanisms that drive the size change of galaxies?
Due to the strong gravitational lens effect galaxies can map galaxies
in their background in so-called Einstein rings or multiple images.
You will study how the (dark plus luminous) matter in a foreground
galaxy has to be distributed to reproduce the observed image
You will use a public lens-source-reconstruction code and study
several systems observed with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST).
Projects in the Physical Cosmology Group (Jochen Weller et al.)
5. Computational and theoretical astrophysics
Research in the Computational Astrophysics Group (CAST) ranges from
the theoretical investigation of star and planet formation to studies
of processes on cosmological scales.
A variety of different, well-known numerical codes (such as Ramses,
Gadget, Sauron, Gandalf, Mocassin, and others) are used.
Primary investigations regard the formation, the structure, and
the evolution of protoplanetary disks, the formation of planetary
building blocks and planets, the relation between turbulence and phase
transitions in the multiphase interstellar medium (ISM), energetic
feedback processes, molecular cloud and star formation in galaxies, as
well as cosmological structure and galaxy formation and the interplay
between feedback processes, AGN, and galaxy evolution and their imprint
on the intergalactic medium (IGM) or the intercluster medium (ICM).
Thus, our group studies astrophysical processes on length scales
covering more than 14 orders of magnitude, from gigaparsec scales
of cosmological structures all the way down to sub-AU scales of dust
grains within protoplanetary disks.
It is now clear that small-scale processes like the condensation
of molecular clouds into stars, magnetic fields and the details of
heat transport as well as large-scale processes like gas infall from
the cosmic web into galaxies and environment are intimately coupled
and have to be investigated in a concerted effort.
The various past and ongoing projects within the CAST group cover
a link between the various scales and contribute to our understanding
of crucial aspects of the formation and evolution of stars and
protoplanetary disks, central black holes and AGNs, star-forming
regions and the ISM, galaxies and their IGM, galaxy clusters and the
ICM as well the large-scale structures in the universe.
They also also drive the continuous effort to develop and to apply
new numerical methods and the next generation of multi-scale codes
within the framework of numerical astrophysics.
Past and ongoing Bachelor’s and Master’s thesis projects
were always offered with respect to the individual strengths and
interests of the students and cover various areas in the field of
computational and theoretical astrophysics:
- Formation of large-scale cosmological structures (dark-matter
halos, galaxies, clusters of galaxies, role of black holes, magnetic
fields and non-thermal particles)
- Evolution and structure of the turbulent interstellar medium
(ISM physics, self-regulating star formation, formation of molecular
clouds, magnetic fields)
- Physics of galactic centers (active galactic nuclei, origin and
nature of the gas cloud G2 near the Galactic center)
- Formation of planets, stars, and stellar clusters (stars and
their influence on the surrounding protoplanetary disc, interstellar
matter, radiative transfer, dynamics of particles and planets in
- Application and development of numerical tools on parallel
CPUs and GPUs and visualization (particle-based
moving-mesh or meshless methods)
More detailed information on
ongoing and finished projects
as well as more detailed information on ongoing research can be
found on the web pages of the
Computational Astrophysics Group.