Date of Award

Summer 8-12-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Russel J. White

Second Advisor

Peter Plavchan

Third Advisor

John D. Monnier

Fourth Advisor

Fabien Baron

Fifth Advisor

Douglas R. Gies

Sixth Advisor

Harold A. McAlister

Seventh Advisor

Gary Hastings


A broad near-infrared photometric survey is conducted of 1678 stars in the direction of the $\rho$ Ophiuchi ($\rho$ Oph) star forming region using data from the 2MASS Calibration Database. The survey involves up to 1584 photometric measurements in the \emph{J}, \emph{H} and \emph{K$_{s}$} bands with an $\sim$1 day cadence spanning 2.5 years. Identified are 101 variable stars with $\Delta$\emph{K$_{s}$} band amplitudes from 0.044 to 2.31 mag and $\Delta$(\emph{J}-\emph{K$_{s}$}) color amplitudes ranging from 0.053 to 1.47 mag. Of the 72 $\rho$ Oph star cluster members, 79$\%$ are variable; in addition, 22 variable stars are identified as candidate members. The variability is categorized as periodic, long timescale, or irregular based on the \emph{K$_{s}$} time series morphology. The dominant variability mechanisms are assigned based on the correlation between the stellar color and single band variability. Periodic signals are found in 32 variable stars with periods between 0.49 to 92 days. The most common variability mechanism among these stars is rotational modulation of cool starspots. Periodic eclipse-like variability is identified in 6 stars with periods ranging from 3 to 8 days; in these cases the variability mechanism may be warped circumstellar material driven by a hot proto-Jupiter. Aperiodic, long time scale variability is identified in 31 stars with time series ranging from 64 to 790 days. The variability mechanism is split evenly between either variable extinction or mass accretion. The remaining 40 stars exhibit sporadic, aperiodic variability with no discernible time scale or variability mechanism.

Interferometric images of the active giant $\lambda$ Andromedae ($\lambda$ And) were obtained for 27 epochs spanning November. 2007 to September, 2011. The \emph{H} band angular diameter and limb darkening coefficient of $\lambda$ And are 2.777 $\pm$ 0.027 mas and 0.241 $\pm$ 0.014, respectively. Starspot properties are extracted via a parametric model and an image reconstruction program. High fidelity images are obtained from the 2009, 2010, and 2011 data sets. Stellar rotation, consistent with the photometrically determined period, is traced via starspot motion in 2010 and 2011. The orientation of $\lambda$ And is fully characterized with a sky position angle and inclination angle of 23$\degree$ and 78$\degree$, respectively.