Dr Stuart Littlefair

Reader in Astrophysics

Research

I use eclipsing binaries to study the fundamental properties of low-mass stars, extra-solar planets and brown dwarfs.

I also study the evolution of interacting binaries like cataclysmic variables.

The variability of very low mass stars and brown dwarfs has a mysterious origin. Dust cloud weather, magnetic activity and powerful aurora may all play a role.

I use infrared and optical observations to understand the origins and implications of variability.

Time-domain astrophysics requires specialist tools!

I work with colleagues at Sheffield, Warwick and Durham to build specialist cameras and telescopes to study astrophysics on the fastest timescales.

Teaching

PHY328: Advanced Python

An online course that includes the use of libraries like NumPy, scikit-learn and Pandas, as well as introducing Object-Oriented programming and the basics of machine learning.

The course culminates in students coding their own neural network and using it to classify stars and galaxies using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The course notes are contained in the CoCalc computing environment, contact me for details.

PHY241: Observational Astronomy

An introduction to observational astronomy and Python programming. It replaces the old observational astronomy course PHY217. PHY217 does not contain any Python lessons, but covers the topics of astronomical instrumentation and telescope design in more detail.

Detailed course notes for PHY241 are available online. Archived course notes for PHY217 are also available.

Code

On my github repository, you can download other code I've made available.

In particular, you might be interested in the LFIT package for modelling cataclysmic variable lightcurves, together with Python tools for optimising model parameters in lightcurves containing red noise, or code that I have written for the HiPERCAM project, including the finding chart tools for ULTRACAM, HiPERCAM and ULTRASPEC.