Exoplanets and Travelling

+ Data Science and Public Engagement


A short introduction of myself


Hi! I am an astrophysicist hunting for new exoplanets. Since 2018, I am a Torres Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), working on small exoplanets, small stars and stellar flares with the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) team. Whenever I am not searching for new worlds, I enjoy travelling, the outdoors (scuba diving, rock climbing and hiking), and exploring our own Earth.

Expertise: Exoplanets, Stellar Flares, Cool Stars, Habitability

Skills: Bayesian Statistics, Machine Learning, Time Series Analysis


My PhD was obtained at the University of Cambridge, UK, where I worked in Professor Didier Queloz's group at the Exoplanet Research Centre. My research was focused on how we can distinguish between real exoplanets and stuff that looks like exoplanets, but is not (false positives). I worked with the Next Generation Transit Survey, a ground-based array of telescopes on the hunt for Neptune-sized exoplanets.

For my Master’s Thesis, I did something completely different: research in the biophysics lab of Professor George Shubeita at the University of Austin at Texas (Hook 'em Horns). I developed a mathematical model furthering our understanding of animal models of genetic diseases like Alzheimer's and Fragile X.

My physics undergraduate education was at the University of Würzburg, where I studied AGN mega-masers in the multi-wavelength group of Professor Matthias Kadler.


(Observation of a solar flare and coronal mass ejection.

Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)


Highlights

Credit: Tansu Daylan

Oct 19, My PhD supervisor, Prof. Didier Queloz, just won the Nobel Price in Physics!

(click on the image)

Sep 19, Secured two grants to design and conduct two experiments on a zero gravity flight. One will be related to prebiotic chemistry in artificial gravity. Stay tuned!

(click on the image)

Jul 19, Our TOI-270 system is published and got world-wide media attention, as we hope to understand the "missing link" between rocky Earths and puffy sub-Neptunes

(click on the image)

Jan 19, Our first TESS study of stellar flares and how they could impact the origin of life on exoplanets

(click on the image)

Sep 18, Started as a Torres Fellow at MIT, working closely with the TESS science team

(click on the image)

Aug 18, Volunteered with Love The Oceans in Mozambique: marine biology field work, scuba diving, and work with the local schools

July 18, Graduated from the University of Cambridge with a PhD in (astro-)physics

Apr 18, Launch of TESS on the SpaceX Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral

Oct 17, Meeting Nobel laureate Rainer Weiss on the day of his award

(click on the image)

Sep 16, Advancing my Spanish for a month at Universidad de La Habana, Cuba with an A.J. Pressland Fund scholarship

Feb 16, Joined Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and Ambassador Ammon for the Kurt Hahn Dinner in the German Embassy in London

Apr 15, My first visit to Paranal: working on NGTS, and exploring the worlds driest desert, Atacama, and its unbelievable night sky

Jul 15, Discussing my research with Prince Andrew, Duke of York, during his visit to Cambridge's Astrophysics Groups

Oct 14, Started my PhD at the University of Cambridge







Research


How do stellar flares impact habitability?

How can flares impact the habitability on our own Earth and on exoplanets - and why might they be related to the origin of life? Read here.


Small exoplanets around small stars

Why is the TOI-270 system a true Disneyland for exoplanet scientists, and what can we learn from it about our own Earth? Read here.


0-scillation: Oscillating chemistry in zero gravity and beyond

Why should we go into space if we want to understand where we came from? Read here.


What else?

Check out my Projects pages for an overview of all my research interests!


(Artist illustration of TOI-270. Credit: Sci-News.com)


Teams &

Collaborations

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is set to discover thousands of new exoplanets. Launched in April 2018, TESS now monitors millions of stars for temporary drops in brightness, which are caused by planetary transits. It will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, around a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances - and maybe even Earth 2.0.


SPECULOOS

The SPECULOOS mission (Search for habitable Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars) consists of four Ritchey–Chrétien telescopes of 1-meter primary aperture, and is based in Paranal, Chile. It's prime mission is to study planets around the coolest of all stars, and find many more systems like the famous TRAPPIST-1 - which was discovered by the SPECULOOS prototype.


The Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS)

The Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) is an exoplanet hunter based in Paranal, Chile. With its 12 fully robotized 20 cm telescopes, NGTS covers a total field of view of almost 100 sq. deg. on the sky at once. The main goal of NGTS is to find transiting Neptunes that will be suitable for RV follow-up and mass measurements using current and future instruments such as HARPS and ESPRESSO.


(TESS. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)


Outreach

& More


2019

'Ask/Tell a Scientist' at the Science Festival in Cambridge, MA, USA: Enagaged in open discussions with the public about any scientific topic, from astronomy to biology.

2018

Volunteered for a month with marine biologists in Mozambique, studying and teaching about marine conservation - sprinkled with some astrophysics.

2017

Hosted a public evening on exoplanets in Burgkunstadt Germany, and gave a visiting tutorial for the high school's astrophysics course. Featured in the local German news (web1, web2) and on the school's website (web1, web2).

Tutored high-performing high-school students in physics and astronomy over multiple months, as part of 'The Brilliant Club' - a charitable programme focussed on low-participation neighbourhoods (web).

2016

Bringing exoplanet science to 8-12 year old pupils in Barton Road and Milton Road Primary Schools. Thanks to the Cambridge Science Festival Roadshow for this fantastic programme (leaflet).

2015

Initiated a public evening on exoplanets hosted at my former high school, Gymnasium Burgkunstadt, in Germany. The evening was featured in articles in the Obermain Tagblatt (web) and on the school's website (web).


(Outreach event, Germany. Credit: OT/Adriane Lochner )


Contact

Department of Physics,

and Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA 02139, USA

Email: maxgue [at] mit.edu

Twitter: @M_N_Guenther










(Sunset at Paranal, Chile. Credit: M. Günther)