Lea Hirsch

Left: Visiting Lick Observatory. Right: Remote observing on HIRES.
Left: Flying on SOFIA. Right: Cornell graduation and FORCAST.

About Me

I am a fourth-year astronomy graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. I study extrasolar planets and binary stars. My ultimate goal is to contribute to the understanding of how planets form and evolve in binary star systems, in comparison to single stellar systems. I am pursuing this goal through a dual survey for planetary and stellar companions around a volume-limited sample of G and early K stars within 25 pc of the Sun. Using high spatial-resolution imaging from the ShaneAO system on the Shane 3-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, and spectroscopic data from both Keck HIRES and the Automated Planet Finder, I will be sensitive to any stellar companions around my 300 target stars. The radial velocities from the APF and HIRES will also allow me to uncover new planets within these stellar systems, and ultimately to constrain the comparative occurrence rate and properties of planets in stellar systems with and without a binary companion.

Prior to beginning this project, I worked on characterization of exoplanet host stars using the SpecMatch routine, which compares target star spectra to a stellar spectral library to determine properties such as surface temperature, gravity, and metallicity. I conducted a rigorous analysis of the library, removing binary stars which confuse the algorithm, in an effort to streamline the process by which host star, and thus planet, parameters are determined.

I completed my undergraduate degree in Physics at Cornell University, where I worked with the SOFIA team on data collected by the Cornell-built infrared instrument, FORCAST. My initial research involved calibration of the instrument following the first series of diagnostic flights aboard SOFIA. Later, I focused on the Ultra-Compact HII region W3(OH), a site of recent massive star formation. I utilized the radiative transfer code DUSTY to model the region, and the online Robitaille protostellar model grid to learn about nearby protostars.


Hirsch, L. et al. 2012


Astronomy/EPS/L&S C12 Fall 2012
Astronomy 7a Fall 2013


2009 and 2012 Annual Expanding Your Horizons Conference
2012 and 2013 Discovery Day at AT&T Park
2012 and 2013 Bay Area Scientists in Schools participant
Presentation to East Bay Astronomical Society: Exoplanets in Binary Systems, 1/2014
Helped design and build demonstration on stellar parallax as a distance measure

Contact Me

Lea Hirsch
Astronomy Department
University of California Berkeley
Campbell Hall, Office 605J
Email: lhirsch@berkeley.edu