Fraser Gillan

Astrophysics PhD Student at Queen's University Belfast

Photometry of Active Jupiter Family Comets

My research primarily focuses on using the ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) survey to monitor a large number of Jupiter-Family comets(JFC's) dust activity over a range of heliocentric distances to investigate their evolution and dust production rates throughout their orbit.

As the ATLAS survey is a high cadence, all sky survey system, these comets can be monitored throughout a significant fraction of their orbit allowing for the comprehensive measurement of cometary activity for a whole family to be conducted. The specific focus is looking at the effect of heliocentric distance on the dust activity in these comets to build up an understanding of what trends can be found within the Jupiter Family and determine the total mass loss rates of these comets.


I completed my BSc in Astrophysics at the University of Central Lancashire from 2015 - 2019 where my undergraduate project focused on calculating the orbits and properties of Near-Earth asteroids using data from the MHT at the Alston Observatory. After the completion of the BSc, I wished to further study small Solar System bodies which led to the completion of my MSc(Res) in Astrophysics also at the University of Central Lancashire from 2019 - 2020. This work focused on the design and implementation of an automatic detection system to search for Solar System objects in data from NASA's STEREO mission. After the completion of my Masters, wishing to further pursue small Solar System objects, I started my PhD at Queens's University Belfast in October 2021.


  • Public Observing days/nights at UCLan Cyprus (2019)
  • Lightpool Festival SUN exhibit (2019)
  • Various lectures and telescope tours at the Alston Observatory (2019 - 2020)
  • Talk on Comets at Northern Ireland Science Festival Astronomy Day (2023)

Research Interests

  • Small Solar System objects (comets and asteroids)
  • Cometary Activity
  • Observational astronomy


  • Observation demonstrating for undergraduate at UCLan's Alston observatory (2018)
  • Observation demonstrating for undergraduate at Queen's University Belfast (2021 - 2023)
  • Solar observation demonstrating for undergraduate at Queen's University Belfast (2023)
  • Computational Methods demonstrating for undergraduate (2022 - 2023)