Steven Villanueva Jr.
Overview of My Research
As a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, I work to understand what role giant planets play in the formation of extrasolar systems around stars outside of our solar system. I use a variety of surveys to identify planets for my studies. Learn more about my research below.
I’m a first-generation college student originally from Dallas, TX. I spent four years in the United States Air Force to fund my undergraduate degree in Physics. I spend most of my nights using a telescope I built to understand planets outside of our solar system that you can learn more about below.
Hunting Giant Planets Around Other Stars
Hot Giant Planets with KELT
The Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope (KELT) planet hunting survey, works to monitor millions of stars throughout the sky, hoping to spot the occasional dimming of light that happens when a planet passes in front of the host star. We refer to this as a transit. I work to better understand the strange class of planets known as Hot Jupiters by observing transiting planets at higher precision that possible by KELT. To the right you can see an animation of the planet KELT-20b, confirmed with DEMONEXT and other telescopes. Little is known about how Hot Jupiters form or how the end up so close to their stars.
I assembled and fully automated the 0.5 meter DEdicated MONitor of EXotransits and Transients or DEMONEXT telescope. The telescope has been in fully automated operations since 2016. DEMONEXT has observed over 350 transit like events and counting. This is in addition to the various other science projects that are observed at the request of astronomers at places like Ohio State, Vanderbilt, and MIT.
Cool Giant Planets with TESS
The upcoming Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is poised to discover thousands of new planets, with an emphasis on understanding small planets around small stars. I am working with various members of the TESS team at NASA and MIT to identify the largest planets, on the longest orbits. Our goal is to identify planets that could be Hot Jupiters in the making to better understand how these strange planets form and how they effect the extrasolar systems they reside it.
The All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN) continues to discover a few hundred supernovae per year. These explosions from stars at the ends of their lives tell us about the history and evolution of stars in our galaxy and beyond. I monitor the brightening and fading of these events over the course of weeks with DEMONEXT to inform supernovae astronomers how the brightness of the supernovae evolve in time.