Research Projects

Each summer student will conduct research under the guidance of two or more ESO astronomers, on a project in the area of expertise of the advisors. The project may involve any aspect of astronomy, including astronomy research, instrumentation, or software development.

Seven research projects will be offered for the programme in 2024; applicants should identify two projects on their application form using the project identifiers A-G given in the left column. Brief abstracts are presented here, more information about the projects and the supervisors can be found by following the learn more links below. The hashtags summarise some key topics and skills that characterise the projects.. 

If you have further questions or would like to learn more about the projects, please email the project advisors directly (you can find the emails by clicking through to the project descriptions). They would be very happy to hear from you!


Zooming into the environment around young protostars

Pooneh Nazari

This project aims to use private and/or archival Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) data and map the emitting regions from three molecules, CH3CN, CH3OH, and NH2CHO. These molecules are observed abundantly around young protostars, where planet formation starts, and are thought to be the building blocks of larger molecules that are necessary for life. Therefore, it is important to understand the chemical formation pathways of these molecules.

learn more


A cosmic dance: hunting the mysterious companion of a rapidly rotating classical Be star

Jens Kammerer & Julia Bodensteiner  

Massive stars are important cosmic engines, yet their evolution still remains poorly understood. One of the biggest gaps in our understanding concerns the Be phenomenon: about 20% of the galactic B-type stars are so-called classical Be stars, that is stars which exhibit strong emission in hydrogen spectral lines originating in a gaseous circumstellar disk. Be stars are generally observed to be rapidly rotating, potentially near to their critical break-up velocities. The origin of their rapid rotation, however, remains elusive.

learn more


Applying particle simulations to probe the environment around active black holes

Xavier Rodriges & Martina Karl

Active galactic nuclei (AGN) are among the most powerful objects in the Universe. These supermassive black holes in the heart of some galaxies act as cosmic particle accelerators, millions of times more powerful than any human-made collider.

learn more


The most extreme environment of the Galaxy. Unveiling the metallicity of a young stellar cluster in the Galactic centre

Francisco Nogueras Lara

The Galactic centre is an extreme stellar environment characterised by high stellar crowding, extreme extinction, intense radiation, and high turbulence and temperature of the interstellar medium. In spite of these harsh conditions, it is the most prolific star-forming environment of the Galaxy when averaged over volume, being responsible for up to 10% of the total Milky Way’s star formation activity in the last 100 Myr. Hence, it provides an ideal setting for exploring star formation in challenging conditions akin to those found in starburst or high-redshift galaxies.

learn more


Unfolding the intricate realm of a nascent protostar

Marta De Simone, Luca Cacciapuoti & Enrique Macias

Do planetary systems really form from a symmetric collapse of quasi-spherical clouds? Modern sensitive radio-telescopes revealed asymmetric gas and dust structures infalling onto young protostars and their planet-forming disks, challenging the classic scenario. Join us to unveil the mysteries of such structures around the protostar M512 in the Orion cloud.

learn more


Stellar Secrets Unveiled: A Cosmic Odyssey into the Birth of Massive Stars

Ashley Barnes, Giuliana Cosentino & Marta de Simone

Embark on an astronomical adventure with us as we unravel the mysteries of massive star formation! Imagine peering into the cosmos, seeking out elusive stellar nurseries — dense, young regions where the magic of star birth takes place. The catch? These regions are like cosmic hide-and-seek champions, making them tricky to study. But fear not because cutting-edge technology is about to change the game.

learn more


The needle in a haystack: hunting for exocomets

Julia Bodensteiner, Amelia Bayo & Giulia Roccetti

Even though the first exocomets (a.k.a "falling evaporating bodies", FEBs) were observationally discovered before the first exoplanets orbiting sun-like stars were found (by Ferlet in 1987), their discovery rates have not followed parallel. The presence of FEBs was first inferred from transient components in metallic lines in the famous Beta Pictoris system. In short, by taking many high-quality spectra of the star Beta Pictoris, one could literally see that the "fingerprints" of calcium in the spectra (so-called spectral lines), changed with time: "the star" was visible as one stable contribution, but also some random contributions that appeared and disappeared in time scales of hours and days. These "capricious" additional pockets of gas between us and the star were (and still are) interpreted as the gaseous tails of comets.

learn more