Interning with Chandra

Alicia Goldstein
Alicia Goldstein

We welcome Alicia Goldstein, who was an intern at the Chandra X-ray Center this past summer, as our guest blogger. Ms. Goldstein, originally from Ellicott City, MD, is currently a senior at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where she majors in mechanical engineering. Prior to this summer, Ms. Goldstein was an intern at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and lists working for NASA as her ideal career goal.

This summer, I worked on two separate projects. The first involved the development of a Python code that would display the defined and predicted positions and velocities of Chandra, and the second involved the analysis of the periods of the variable stars in the Chandra Variable Guide Star Catalog,, or VGuide, database. The coding project involved interpreting and manipulating previous code, as well as creating entirely new sections. Given an input of two data files, the code was able to output a file with plots of the predicted and defined velocities and positions of the spacecraft.

For the analysis of the variable stars, two separate approaches were needed: one for the eclipsing stars and one for the pulsating stars. For the eclipsing stars, a set of IDL (a programming language used for data analysis) programs was initially used to find the periods, with additional investigation done with NASA’s online Periodogram service. The pulsating stars were examined with the program Period04. The data found included the period, amplitude, and signal-to- noise ratio for each observation, as well as for the entirety of the observations for each star appended to each other. The results of these programs require further examination, which will be done over the next several months. To achieve this, I will be continuing to work remotely with Dr. Joy Nichols and the CfA over the next semester at least.

I developed various skills during this internship, such as the usage of Python, IDL, and Linux. I also gained a wide base of knowledge regarding spacecraft operation, variable stars, data processing, and general astrophysics.

This summer was absolutely incredible and I feel that I learnt a huge amount as well as grew as a person. My time here has inspired me to attend graduate school and pursue a career in astronomy. I cannot thank Dr. Nichols, the CfA, and the Space Grant enough for this invaluable experience and I look forward to continuing our association!

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