Judah Van Zandt

Observational Astronomer
Image credit: ESO/L. Calçada
I'm a third-year astronomy PhD student at UCLA. I work with my advisor, Erik Petigura, to explore exoplanet occurrence and orbital characteristics. I am especially interested in combining multiple detection techniques to improve our understanding of exosystem structure.


I am interested in understanding the relationships between different objects that orbit stars. Some are planets, which can be small and rocky, or big and gaseous. Some are close to their host star, while others orbit far away. Some aren't planets at all, and instead fall into the category of "brown dwarfs." Some are even stars themselves!

The Distant Giants Survey

In our own solar system, there are two main classes of planet: small and close-in, and big and far-out. What is the relationship between them? Do giant planets aid in the formation of small rocky ones? Distant Giants aims to determine the  occurrence rate of large outer planets in systems where an inner small planet is already known. The video above shows my 2022 GradSlam presentation, where I break down Distant Giants in just 3 minutes!

Trend and Astrometry Analysis

This analysis was motivated by the search for long-period planets in the Distant Giants survey. Planets on long orbits may produce signals that vary over periods much greater than the observational baseline, revealing only partial orbits rather than fully-resolved Keplerians. Trend analysis combines radial velocity and astrometric data to achieve sensitivity to these outer companions.