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Raphael Bendahan-West

I am a MSc by research student in the Astronomy and Astrophysics group at the University of Warwick. My supervisors are Grant Kennedy, David Brown, and Paul Strøm. My research consists of building an algorithm that searches and quantifies the rate of ionised Calcium exocomet absorption events in archival spectra.

About me:

I graduated with a BSc (with Honours) of Physics (with Intercalated Year) from the University of Warwick (2017-2021). As part of my degree, I spent the 2019-2020 academic year abroad at the University of Waterloo in ON, Canada.

For my final year BSc project, I worked under the supervision of Grant Kennedy, David Brown, and Paul Strøm, to build an automated algorithm that searches for exocomet transits in the HARPSLink opens in a new window archive.

I continued to work on this project through the Undergraduate Research Support Scheme (URSS) as a summer bursary student in 2021. I have computed a Self-Organising Map using Machine Learning, which will be used to filter out false positive candidates from our exocomet transit search.


Exocomets is a term used to describe comets orbiting around stars other than the Sun. The field of exocomets has been built around the unmatched number of detections made in the circumstellar disc of the star Beta Pictoris (Kiefer et al. 2014Link opens in a new window). A key factor in acknowledging the role of exocomet detection comes from understanding the planet formation mechanism, as comets are formed from the unused building blocks that create planets.

In the past few years, extra motivation came from the detection of interstellar comets in our solar system, such as 2I/Borisov. The analysis of this particular comet (Bodewits et al. 2020Link opens in a new window), shows compositional similarities with the comets of the solar system. Consequently, searching for the presence of exocomets would not only indirectly provide information about the presence of planets in the system, but also, point out stellar systems that should be similar to our solar system.

My research consists of improving the algorithm coded during my BSc project as well as using the output of my URSS summer project to refine the results from my BSc. The final goal is to generate a list of stars showing the most sporadic absorption events which are interpreted as signs of an exocomet presence. This list would enable us to estimate the probability of detecting exocomet transits in a random sample of stars.


Other Interests and Outreach:

Other than my interest in Astronomy, I have been playing basketball competitively for 15 years in national/county/university leagues. Since 2017, I have been involved in the Warwick Basketball Club, taking different positions as the years go by (Charity Officer 2018-2019, Men's Teams Captain 2020-2021, Advisor to the Executive Commitee 2021-2022). Starting this year, I am also a Warwick Sport Activator, encouraging other students to be more active, by running casual, inclusive and beginner friendly basketball sessions.

My growing experience in data manipulation has strengthened my interest in sport data science, especially linked to basketball. I am currently familiarising myself with new analytic tools more specialised towards sports analytics (Coursera courseLink opens in a new window if interested). Some of my personal side projects include trying to predict the winning team of future basketball seasons according to old data, or predicting future MVP/ROY according to archival data.

I have always been fascinated by the marine environment, with experience working in the yachting industry, as well as my continual enthusiasm to discover the underwater world (scuba diving, freediving, spear fishing).

I have recently been involved as a student ambassador for the Physics department during the Physics Open days at Warwick, providing information about the Physics with Astrophysics degree to prospective students.


Write to:

Raphael Bendahan-West,
Department of Physics,
University of Warwick,
Coventry CV4 7AL

Contact details:

E-Mail: R.Bendahan-West [at]

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