Laura Mayorga » Graduate Students

Laura Mayorga

Graduate Student NMSUAstronomy

Photo of Laura Mayorga

Biographical Info


I received my B.S. degree in physics and astronomy in 2012 from the University of Washington.

At UW, I worked with Eric Agol to develop a method for determining the density of transiting extrasolar planets, by extrapolating orbital parameters (including orbital radii) for possible exomoons. I used transit and eclipse data to constrain densities, to better define appropriate ranges for mass, radius, and composition estimates in combination with additional observations. This technique is an improvement upon the current two step process of density determination since it does not require radial velocity data. The development of this technique has also led to the production of ways to identify smaller objects orbiting planets. This would be particularly interesting with planets analogous to Jupiter and Saturn which have many small moons (and rings).

From 2008 through 2010 I processed and interpreted thermal infrared data from the Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey spacecraft, mapping compositions across the Martian surface with Joshua Bandfield.

I am very interested in space telescopes, remote sensing, and a wide range of robotic forms of data collection. I have been active for a number of years in a worldwide annual robotics competition through For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST).

I began my graduate studies in June 2012. I am particularly interested in extrasolar planets, moons and habitable zones. I have been working on Kepler data analaysis to detect the tiny flux variations associated with reflected and emitted light from the planet in order to increase our understanding of planet’s atmosphere. Work for which I am pleased to acknowledge support from a New Mexico Higher Education Department (HED) scholarship and was awarded a Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Student Award for my poster presentation at the 223rd AAS meeting in Washington D.C.

My thesis is titled Probing Exoplanet Atmospheric Properties from Phase Variations and Polarization and pertain to preliminary science in preparation for the Wide-Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST). WFIRST’s coronagraph will revolutionize our studies of exoplanet atmospheres by allowing for the direct imaging of cool Jupiter and sub-Neptune planets. I am providing supporting observations of Jupiter and measuring the polarization signals from a suite of model atmospheres, designed to encompass the potential planets WFIRST will observe, and determine the effectiveness with which WFIRST polarization channels and coronagraph filters will be able to provide constrains on atmospheric properties.


Measuring Doppler Beaming with Kepler and TESS
Laura C. Mayorga et al. 2016, AASMA, 227, 138.24

Modelling Phase Curves and Occultations in KOI Light Curve
Laura C. Mayorga et al. 2015, AASMA, 225, 257.38

Disentangling the Planetary and Stellar Components of Transit Light Curves
Laura C. Mayorga et al. 2014, AASMA, 223, 347.14

The LINEAR Photometric Database: Time Domain Information for SDSS Objects
Mark Veyette et al. 2012, AASMA, 219, 348.19

An Integrated Analysis of Martian Surface Compositions Using Near Infrared Through Thermal Infrared Spectroscopic Data
J. L. Bandfield, Laura C. Mayorga, C. S. Edwards, & T. D. Glotch 2009, Lunar and Planetary Inst. Technical Report, 40, 1072

Meetings Attended
  • AAS 227
  • AAS 225
  • 2014 SAC Summer School
  • AAS 223
  • Kepler Science Conference II
  • 2012 Sagan Exoplanet Workshop
  • NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (2013 – 2018)
  • Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Student Award (2014)
  • NM HED Scholar (2013 – 2014)
  • Washington NASA Space Grant Scholar (2008 – 2012)
  • McNair Scholar (2010 – 2012)
  • Association of Women in Science (AWIS) Scholarship (2010)