Katie Lester

Georgia State University

Hello! I am a fifth year astronomy graduate student and PhD candidate at GSU. I work with Dr. Doug Gies to measure the orbits and determine the fundamental parameters of visual & spectroscopic binary stars.

I was also a lab TA for the intro astronomy classes and am currently the president of AstroPAL, a mentoring group for astronomy grad students at GSU.

In my spare time, I enjoy playing tennis, going to music concerts, biking, and traveling! I also teach spin classes at the gym.


PhD Candidate - GSU, in progress.
MS Physics - GSU, December 2017.
BS Astrophysics - Lehigh University, May 2014.


Office: 25 Park Place 625F
Email: Lester @ astro.gsu.edu

My Research

Visual Orbits of Spectroscopic Binaries

The fundamental parameters of eclipsing binary stars are used to test stellar evolutionary models by comparing the observed and predicted stellar parameters, such as mass, radius and temperature. However, most eclipsing binaries have short orbital periods, which implies that the stars probably interacted in their early phases and are currently subject to tidal forces. So, it is not clear how applicable the parameters of close binaries are to evolutionary models of single stars. The solution to this problem is to expand binary star studies to longer period systems that are widely separated and not interacting. This requires the determination of a visual orbit to estimate the orbital inclination, which is then combined with the spectroscopic elements to find masses. For my thesis project, we plan to determine the visual and spectroscopic orbits for 11 double-lined spectroscopic binaries by combining echelle spectroscopy from the APO 3.5m with long baseline interferometry from the CHARA Array.

Image Credit: the CHARA array

Video of my talk at GRAM 2018

A Photometric, Spectroscopic and Apsidal Motion Analysis of BW Aqr

Eclipsing binary systems showing apsidal motion can be used to test the internal structure predictions of stellar evolution models. For this purpose, we present a photometric and spectroscopic analysis of the eclipsing binary BW Aquarii, an evolved F-type binary with slow apsidal motion. We model the K2 C3 light curve using the Eclipsing Light Curve code to determine several orbital and stellar parameters, as well as measure the eclipse times to determine updated apsidal motion parameters for the system. Furthermore, we obtain high-resolution spectra of BW Aqr using the CHIRON echelle spectrograph on the CTIO 1.5m for radial velocity analysis. We then reconstruct the spectra of each component using Doppler tomography in order to determine the atmospheric parameters. We find that both components of BW Aqr are late F-type stars with M1 = 1.365 +/- 0.008 Msun, M2 = 1.483 +/- 0.009 Msun, and R1 = 1.782 +/- 0.021 Rsun, R2 = 2.053 +/- 0.020 Rsun. We then compare these results to the predictions of several stellar evolution models, finding that the models cannot reproduce the observed properties of both components at the same age.

Lester, K.V., & Gies, D.R. 2018, AJ, 156, 8

K2 C0 Eclipsing Binary near EPIC 202062176

We completed a photometric and light curve analysis of an eccentric eclipsing binary in the K2 Campaign 0 feld that resides in Sh 2-252E, a young star cluster embedded in an H II region. Because there dozens of stars in this embedded cluster fall within the Kepler aperture, we obtained spectra of the three brightest stars in the crowded aperture to identify which is the binary system. We found that none of these stars are components of the eclipsing binary system, which must be one of the fainter nearby stars. However, these bright cluster members all have remarkable spectra: Sh 2-252a (EPIC 202062176) is a B0.5 V star with razor sharp absorption lines, Sh 2-252b is a Herbig A0 star with disk-like emission lines, and Sh 2-252c is a pre-main sequence star with very red color.

Lester, K.V., Gies, D.R., & Guo, Z. 2016, AJ, 152, 194

Astronomy Lab Info

I taught both ASTR 1010 and 1020 lab sections, including setting up the lab, presenting a brief introduction, and grading lab worksheets.

Main Lab webpage

ASTR 1010 Lab

  • Syllabus
  • Project (Lab 24) info

    ASTR 1020 Lab

  • Syllabus
  • Project Medley - topics, types, and general info

    Lab 28 - Visiting an Observatory

  • On-campus observing - ask me in class!
  • Hard Labor Creek Observatory
  • GA Tech
  • Fernbank Science Center