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David Brown

I am a Research Fellow working in the field of extra-Solar planets. I gained my PhD in 2013 from the University of St Andrews, and before that studied Physics at the University of Warwick, graduating in 2009. After working as a postdoc at Queen's University Belfast, I joined the Astronomy group in March 2015.

PLATO

I work in the PLATO Science Management (PSM) Office, and am funded by the UK Space Agency.

PLATO official logo - 2020 version

PLATO (PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) is the European Space Agency's M3 mission to search for extra-solar planets, or exoplanets. It is designed to find planets the size of Earth, around stars like the Sun, on orbits roughly similar to the Earth's. It will also find thousands of other planets, and characterise their radii, masses, and ages.

PLATO uses the transit method to find planets. The satellite will have 26 small telescopes, which will stare at a large area of the night sky, looking for the regular dimming of stars that is caused by an exoplanet passing in front of them. PLATO also has a strong asteroseismology aspect to it. The mission will investigate the structure of thousands of stars by examining how they vibrate.

As part of the PSM Office, I work closely with Prof. Don Pollacco (the PSM Coordinator) and Dr. Paul Strøm to manage the PLATO-related work of hundreds of scientists from across Europe, and to prepare for the launch of PLATO in 2026. Since starting this position in 2015 I have assisted with two major ESA reviews, coordinated budget preparation and applications, and carried out efficiency and performance studies, amongst other duties.


Research
Exoplanet science

I'm interested in all aspects of exoplanetary science. My PhD was focused on the interactions between hot Jupiter planets and their host stars, particularly through gravitational tides. These can have a significant effect on the evolution of a planetary system, both from the star and the hot Jupiter's points of view. Past projects include:

  • Tidal spin-up of host stars and the link to tide-driven orbital decay of hot Jupiters
  • Tidal realignment of planetary orbits through measurement of the spin-orbit alignment angle using the Rossiter-McLaughlin effect
  • The accuracy of different stellar age estimation methods for exoplanet hosts
  • The presence of circumbinary planets in CoRot, Kepler, and K2 data
  • The existence, or otherwise, of additional, outer bodies in hot Jupiter systems that might have caused misalignment
  • Follow-up of SuperWasp planetary candidates (photometry and radial velocities)

I was a member of the WASP consortium from the start of my PhD until the project ended in 2018, acting as coordinator of the Northern hemisphere follow-up campaign for final couple of years. I have also been part of two large programmes to follow-up K2 and TESS planetary candidates, and have collaborated with the NGTS consortium on occasion.

Artificial satellites

In recent years I have become interested in the study of artificial satellites in Earth orbit. At Warwick we have set up a rapidly growing astrodynamics group that studies the satellite and debris populations in both LEO and GEO. My interest in this area focuses on the burgeoning field of satellite megaconstellations such as Starlink, in particular their effects on the night sky and on observations performed by both amateur and professional astronomers.

I am part of the Royal Astronomical Society's Megaconstellations Working Group, where I am working with other researchers to engage with the companies producing megaconstellations about their effect on astronomy.

Habitability

I am a member of the Centre for Exoplanets and Habitability, a cross-disciplinary research centre here at Warwick that examines the topic of "habitability" in as many ways as possible. The CEH draws upon expertise from departments across the university, and involves researchers from both the sciences and the arts.


Publications

A full list of my publications can be found here, courtesy of ADS.

Selected Publications

D. J. A. Brown et al., 'Rossiter-McLaughlin models and their effect on estimates of stellar rotation, illustrated using six WASP systems', MNRAS 464, 810 (2017)

D. J. A. Brown, 'Three transiting planet discoveries from the Wide Angle Search for Planets: WASP-85 A b; WASP-116 b, and WASP-149 b', ArXiv:1412.7761 (2014)

D. J. A. Brown, 'Discrepancies between isochrone fitting and gyrochronology for exoplanet host stars?', MNRAS 442, 1844 (2014)

D. J. A. Brown et al., 'Analysis of Spin-Orbit Alignment in the WASP-32, WASP-38, and HAT-P-27/WASP-40 Systems', ApJ 760, 139 (2012)

D. J. A. Brown et al., 'Rossiter-McLaughlin effect measurements for WASP-16, WASP-25 and WASP-31', MNRAS 423, 1503 (2012)

D. J. A. Brown et al., 'Are falling planets spinning up their host stars?', MNRAS 415, 605 (2011)

 PDF copies of my PhD thesis are available on request should you wish to read it. All science chapters in my thesis are also available as refereed journal articles (listed above).

Useful material

A copy of my CV can be downloaded here.

Copies of the conference talks (as well as some outreach talks) that I have given are available on request. You will need a pdf viewer to open them.


Outreach

As well as research activities, I am very interested in public engagement and scientific outreach activities. I'm happy to talk to anyone about my research, or about what it's like working in astronomy; please feel free to get in touch if you'd like me to visit your group/society/meeting.

I have several pre-prepared talks, all of which can be adjusted to suit different time slots:

  • "A Brief History of Exoplanets" - an overview of major exoplanet discovery techniques and results; suitable for astronomy societies and older school groups.
  • "Falling Planets" - a more technical talk about tidal interactions; suitable for astronomy societies.
  • "Exoplanet Hunting: the life of a professional astronomer" - an overview of my inspirations and career path, with the basics of exoplanet discovery; suitable for schools and youth groups.

In 2017, while observing on HARPS at ESO's La Silla observatory, I was interviewed about my work for a short documentary: Looking Out There (link to Vimeo)

I have a workshop on exoplanet detection using the radial velocity and transit light curve techniques, "Winks and Wobbles". This workshop was originally designed for year 9 students, but can easily be adapted for year 7 upwards.


Leisure

I am a musician at heart, and in my spare time I rehearse and perform with both the Leamington Sinfonia and the Beauchamp Sinfonietta as part of their woodwind sections.

I also swim regularly, and am very interested in water safety. I was a member of the RLSS for over ten years, and have previously been qualified as a lifesaving instructor.

I am a first aider within the Physics department, currently trained to First Aid at Work standard.

DJABrown2Contact details

Dr. David Brown
Department of Physics
University of Warwick
Coventry
CV4 7AL

Office: PS 0.02

Tel: (+44) (0)24765 73869

E-Mails:
d.j.a.brown (at) warwick.ac.uk
psmoffice (at) warwick.ac.uk

CV: Download here

Publications: A list of my publications can be found via ADS at this URL.

Outreach: Winks and Wobbles workshop

The official logo of the PLATO mission

The logo of the PLATO Mission Consortium

The official logo of the UK Space Agency