Recent research at the Union College Observatory falls into three main categories:
Cataclysmic Variables: Novas and nova-like variables stars involving mass exchange in a close binary star system. Our observations are in coordination with the Center for Backyard Astrophysics (CBA) led by Joseph Patterson at Columbia University. Additionally, our variable star observations are contributed to the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) and retreivable by the astronomical community.
Exoplanets: The transit of a planet in front of the disk of its star leads to a measurable, periodic dimming. Several students have conducted projects for summer research, research practicum, sophomore scholar study and senior thesis. Notably, Georgia Mraz '19 and Prof. Wilkin contributed observations to the follow-up program associated with NASA's TESS mission to discover exoplanets.
Asteroids: The rotation of asteroids leads to a periodic brightness variation due to irregularities in the shape and surface reflectivity. Our changing perspective over several years permits brightness measurements ("lightcurves") to be transformed through mathematical modeling into a vector spin and a 3-d shape model. These studies are in close coordination with Dr. Stephen Slivan of MIT, particularly for members of the Koronis asteroid family. Just recently, several published papers have appeared in the Minor Planet Bulletin.