College of Science

Cal Poly Pomona Summer Astronomy Research

Don Dixon and Tharindu Jayasinghe with Chris Lintott at AAS in January 2017
CPP alums and former summer research interns Don Dixon (left) and Tharindu Jayasinghe (right) pose with Zooniverse PI Chris Lintott in front of their AAS posters presenting results from the Milky Way Project.


Astronomy Research at Cal Poly Pomona

Cal Poly Pomona professors Breanna Binder and Matthew Povich will lead the summer research program. Drs. Binder and Povich are observational astronomers who use large datasets from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, Herschel Space Observatory, and other world-class observatories spanning the electromagnetic spectrum from X-rays to radio waves. Armed with these unparalled datasets, students working with Drs. Binder and Povich will study all stages in the birth and evolution of high-mass stars (> 20 times the mass and > 100,000 times the luminosity of our Sun) in the Milky Way and nearby galaxies. During the summer of 2019, students will work individually and in teams on the following specific projects:

Synthetic X-ray Luminosity Functions

XRB High-mass X-ray binaries (HMXBs) are evolved, massive binary stars that are composed of a compact object (a black hole or a neutron star) that is actively siphoning material off of a companion massive star’s atmosphere (see the artist's conception at right). As this material falls onto the compact object, it radiates strongly in the X-rays. The distribution of observed X-ray luminosities are called X-ray luminosity functions (XLFs); and the shape of the XLF is related to mass accretion efficiency, star formation rate, and compact object mass. Observationally, bright HMXBs are easier to observe than fainter HMXBs, meaning the number of faint HMXBs are underestimated. The degree of this under-estimation depends on the technological abilities of the X-ray observatory performing the measurements. In this project, the student will construct XLFs for simulated populations of XRBs, and will examine how observations of XLFs depend sensitively on the observational capabilities of X-ray telescopes. The goal of this project is to, ultimately, find the optimal combination of X-ray detector properties that allows for accurate reconstruction of XLFs.

X-ray Binaries in Andromeda’s Star Clusters

Chandra PHAT The Andromeda galaxy (M31) is the nearest, large galaxy to the Milky Way. We have mapped one-third of Andromeda’s spiral disk with the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory to study how Andromeda forms its stars, and how those stars evolve and affect their surroundings. In this project, the student will be correlating the locations of known X-ray binaries with known globular clusters, open clusters, and associations of young, massive stars in M31. The goal of this project is to understand how cluster properties (such as age and color) are related to the properties of X-ray binaries that they host.

Aperture Photometry and Parallax Distances to Galactic Infrared "Bubbles"

RCW 120 IR The powerful radiation and winds from massive stars blow bubbles in the gas and dust of the surrounding interstellar medium. Since 2010, volunteer "citizen scientists" from around the world have been identifying and measuring the sizes and shapes of infrared bubbles in our galaxy via the Milky Way Project online platform. Cal Poly Pomona astronomers have compiled a catalog of more than 4,000 infrared bubbles from the Milky Way Project. The tasks for the summer projects will include (1) measuring the brightness of these bubbles across the infrared spectrum through a technique known as aperture photometry and (2) finding associations between the bubbles and stars that have parallaxes measured in the recent Gaia second data release. The aperture photometry will allow us to measure the total power output of these bubbles and hence the stars that produce them. The parallax measurements allow us to estimate the distances to the bubbles and hence place them within a 3-dimensional map of our Galactic disk. Combined, the mesurements made by students working on this project will bring us closer to a detailed picture of the spatial distribution of massive star clusters in our Milky Way Galaxy.


In addition to working on these supervised research projects, summer students in the Cal Poly Pomona Astronomy program will take organized field trips to local museums and observatories as well as guided hikes in the towering San Gabriel mountain range north of Pomona.

Program Details

What is it?

Selected students will receive a 
$5000 stipend for the full 10 weeks. In addition, participants who live more than a 30-minute drive from campus will be provided with a housing allowance and reimbursed for travel from home or campus to Pomona, CA.

Who should apply?

Applicants must be at least 18 years of age by the beginning of the program. They must be enrolled in one of the CAMPARE participating institutions at the time of their application. Community college students in the process of transferring to a 4-year institution are eligible to apply, and applications from community college students considering transferring to CPP are especially encouraged.

All applicants must have completed a minimum of one full year of college-level physics by the start of the program.

When and How to Apply

Applications are due February 1, 2019. To apply to the program, follow the Application Instructions

In addition, you must ask two faculty members (or others familiar with your academic or work background) to submit letters of reference using the link on the application instructions page. Indicate their names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses in your on-line application where appropriate. It is your responsibility to confirm that these letters have been sent and failure to obtain these two letters will render your application incomplete and lead to its rejection without review.

Successful students will be notified in March. The research program runs Monday, June 3 to Friday, August 9, 2019 (10 weeks). Participants must be available during the entire 10-week period of the program.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants AST-1559559 and AST-1636646.

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