Project Overview

Optical Variability of Quasars and Stars at the Colgate Observatory

Faculty Sponsor

Thomas Balonek (


Physics and Astronomy


Several positions are available in the ongoing study of the optical variability of quasars and stars under the direction of Prof. Thomas Balonek. You will participate in all stages of the research: planning and conducting nighttime observations at the Colgate Foggy Bottom Observatory, calibrating electronic CCD images from the Colgate Observatory, extracting numerical information from the images and from all-sky surveys, analyzing data (including extensive use of graphs and statistical analysis), and organizing results for written and oral presentations. You will be spending many nights observing with fellow research students. You may present your scientific results at the Fall 2024 Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium Student Research Symposium. Prior computer programming or observing experience is valuable, but not required. Preferred dates: 10-week period May 27 – August 02.

Student Qualifications

Students will be trained in the observing and image analysis procedures during the summer, so prior experience is not necessary to participate in this project. Priority may be given to students who have taken the Astronomical Techniques (ASTR 312) course or other Colgate Astronomy courses, and those students planning to continue this work for PHYS 410. At least two students per night will be required to work for the full night on clear evenings throughout the summer, including weekends. The first few weeks of the summer will be focused on training in the observing, image calibration and data reduction procedures. Students will see all steps of the research project: background research, planning and conducting observations, calibrating data, extracting numerical information from the images, analyzing data (including extensive use of graphs and statistical analysis), and organizing their results for written and oral presentations. Working together in small research groups (and with me) help students see the collaborative nature of scientific studies. At the end of the summer, students typically devote one to two weeks writing a paper and preparing a talk for the fall KNAC Student Research Symposium. 

Number of Student Researchers

4 students

Project Length

10 weeks

Applications open on 10/03/2023 and close on 02/28/2024

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (