Benjamin Montet

Hi there! I'm a lecturer and Scientia Fellow in the School of Physics at the University of New South Wales. My research is focused on finding and understanding new planets orbiting stars other than the Sun, and developing new methods to better understand how stellar activity changes across stellar lifetimes. To do these, I use data from the NASA Kepler and TESS missions, as well as from ground-based facilities in Australia and abroad.

I'm always happy to discuss potential projects with students at all levels from undergraduate to Ph.D. If you're a current or prospective UNSW student, feel free to reach out to me to discuss potential projects or research directions. My email is b.montet [at] unsw.edu.au.

Learn more about my research

My Research at UNSW

Long-Term Photometric Variability of Kepler Stars

Kepler has measured short-term variations in the observed flux of hundreds of thousands of stars as a part of its search for exoplanets. During this search, signs of long-term variability in the stars are intentionally destroyed. Full-frame image (FFI) data from Kepler provide an opportunity to recover this variability to better measure long-term photometric variations. We've developed a method to do just that, which we've applied to KIC 8462852 to understand its environment and to 5,000 Sun-like stars to understand their starspot and facular coverage. I'm excited about applying this to all stars observed by Kepler to understand how stellar fundamental parameters affect the magnitude and evolution of stellar activity, and the implications for planetary habitability.



Charactering Planets and Young Stars with TESS Photometry

The NASA TESS mission has provided us with data on millions of stars, many of which host orbiting planets. I am the Principal Investigator of the eleanor project to produce the best possible light curves for these stars. We are searching these stars for planets and using these data to better understand stellar activity. In the future, I'm interested in developing machine learning techniques to characterize planetary signals and signatures of stellar activity in photometric surveys. Some of this work, including the development of eleanor, is led by Adina Feinstein at the University of Chicago, but there are many more potential paths to explore for an interested student. I'm particuarly interested in applying our methods to young stars where planets are just forming and to evolved stars, where we can leverage asteroseismic information to learn even more about these stars.


Understanding Planets and Stellar Activity from the Ground

The first exoplanets discovered around Sun-like stars were discovered through the analysis of high-resolution spectra. Today, through decades of monitoring we have thousands of spectra of tens of thousands of stars from ground-based facilities. Instead of treating each star individually, what can we learn from these bulk observations? I'm interested in using data-driven models built on these observations to better understand stellar activity signals and how best to separate these signals from the signatures of small planets. To that effect, I'm currently applying the wobble framework to stars observed with the HIRES instrument at the W.M. Keck observatory to better separate effects from the star, its orbiting planet, and the Earth's atmosphere. I'm also working with the MAROON-X team to apply the same strategies to data from that instrument, and with the Veloce team to understand the architectures of planetary systems.

Curriculum Vitae

Click on the button below for a PDF of my CV. (Last updated 19 May 2020.)
A complete list of my publications and related metrics can be found at the NASA ADS.

Click for CV (PDF)