about nicholas

First year graduate student, Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa.

Previously a member of the Kepler/K2 Guest Observer Office at NASA Ames. Attended the University of Washington and earned a B.S. in Astronomy and Comprehensive Physics, and a B.A. in Comparative Literature (Cinema Studies). Member of the Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium.

my cv.

My primary research interests are the detection and characterization of exoplanets, particularly using the Kepler Space Telescope and subsequent K2 mission.

I love talking to people about astronomy. There is nothing more exciting than passing on curiousity to someone new. You can find me in the UW Planetarium every week giving shows to the public, or at various events around Seattle like Astronomy on Tap at Peddler Brewing Company or League of Astronomers at UW.

recent publications

Saunders, N., Luger, R., Barnes, R. (2019) The Pointing Limits of Transiting Exoplanet Light Curve Characterization with Pixel Level De-correlation. arxiv:1903.09629

Feinstein, A.D., Montet, B.T., Bean, J.L., Bedell, M.E., Christiansen, J., Foreman-Mackey, D., Hedges, C., Luger, R., Saunders, N., Scolnic, D., Vinícius de Miranda Cardoso, J. (2019) eleanor: A tool for extracting light curves from the TESS Full-Frame Images. arxiv:1903.09152

David, T., Cody, A., Hedges, C., Mamajek, E., Hillenbrand, L., Ciardi, D., Beichman, C., Petigura, E., Fulton, B., Isaacson, H., Howard, A., Gagné, J., Saunders, N., Rebull, L., Stauffer, J., Vasisht, G., Hinkley, S. (2019) A warm Jupiter-sized planet transiting the pre-main sequence star V1298 Tau. arXiv:1902.09670

full list of publications.

stellar simulations

As the Kepler Space Telescope ran out of fuel, its motion increased in magnitude and became less predictable. I created stellar simulations to understand how increased motion affects noise in K2 light curves.


I contributed to the development of the Epic Variability Extraction and Removal for Exoplanet Science Targets (Everest) pipeline. Everest was developed by Luger et al. to remove systematic noise from K2 light curves. Using a method called Pixel Level Decorrelation (PLD) based on the work of Deming et al. (2015), we achieved Kepler-like precision in de-trended K2 light curves down to 15th magnitude.

planetarium & outreach

I take every available opportunity to reach out to the public and talk about my passion. Since 2015, I have been an active volunteer for outreach events and planetarium shows. While at UW, I gave weekly shows for visiting elementary and high school classes, groups of teachers, UW students, members of local Indian Reservations, and the public. I also organized a new set of free monthly public shows, and managed ticket sales and social media for the planetarium.

During the 2017 solar eclipse, I visited the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon and taught middle school students about solar system science. I also helped organize public viewing through telescopes at night and solar telescopes during the day.