Personal profile

Research overview

Andrew Cameron is Professor of Astronomy at St Andrews. His research is in stellar magnetic fields and the discovery and characterisation of extrasolar planets.

In his early career, he focused on the rotational history and dynamo-generated magnetic activity of cool stars, ultimately producing micro-arcsecond resolution maps of starspot distributions and surface magnetic fields. With Dr R. D. Robinson he co-discovered the centrifugally supported "slingshot prominence" systems in the coronae of the young, rapidly rotating solar-type star AB Doradus and other similar objects.

Planet formation appears to be a natural consequence of the star formation process: 4100 planetary systems comprising over 5600 planets are currently known to orbit stars other than the Sun. Studying the architectures of extra-solar planetary systems is revolutionising our understanding of our own solar system's formation and dynamical history.

Cameron was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2002, promoted to a personal chair in 2003 and  was awarded the George Darwin Lectureship of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2012. He served as Head of School from 2012 to 2015. He is a founding Co-I of the WASP project, which won the 2010 RAS Group Achievement award for its discoveries. The WASP collaboration includes several UK universities, and has discovered more than 170 gas-giant planets in close orbits about their host stars, using an array of wide-field CCD cameras. WASP detects the dips in light that occur as planets pass between the observer and the host star. Their masses are determined, and their planetary nature confirmed, using optical spectroscopy to measure the reflex motion of the host star about its common centre of mass with the planet.

Space-based transit searches such as CoRoT and Kepler/K2 have produced many smaller planet candidates, down to Earth size. To determine their masses and compositions requires much finer radial-velocity precision, combined with an understanding of the effects of stellar activity on the apparent stellar radial velocity, which is often the dominant signal. Cameron is the UK Co-PI of the Geneva/SUPA/Harvard/INAF/Belfast HARPS-North spectrograph project,  and is combining high-precision radial-velocity measurements  with stellar activity characterisation to push the limits on planetary mass determination down towards the Earth-mass regime. He is a member of the Science Team for the Swiss-led ESA S-class CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite (CHEOPS; launched 2019), for which he leads the Working Group on data analysis.

Professor Cameron has been awarded  £2.3M from UKRI as part of a  €9.5m ERC Synergy Grant “REVEALing Signatures of Habitable Worlds Hidden by Stellar Activity”. Starting in April 2024, REVEAL gathers experts in magnetohydrodynamic simulations of stellar atmospheres at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), and in exoplanet detection and characterisation at St Andrews and MIT. They will develop novel techniques to weigh Earth-size planets orbiting Sun-like and smaller stars, and to probe their atmospheric chemistry,  by understanding and  mitigating the confusing spectroscopic signals emanating from turbulent gas flows  in the host stars’ outermost layers. The measured wavelengths of dark absorption lines in the star's spectrum reveal the "wobble" in the star's apparent velocity towards or away from Earth as it orbits the centre of mass of its planetary system. For Earth-sized planets this wobble is, however, much smaller than the distortions caused by gas flows in the star's turbulent atmosphere. The picture is complicated further by dark starspots and bright magnetic regions rotating across the face of the star as they grow and decay. The goal of the MPS and St Andrews teams is to model the physics that causes these distortions, and to synthesise the time-dependent changes in the full spectrum of the light emerging from the star's visible hemisphere. By understanding how stellar physics contaminates velocity measurements, it will become possible to develop compensating strategies that will allow exo-Earths to be weighed with enough precision to determine their internal compositions. The same stellar surface physics also imprint molecular signatures on the spectrum of starlight shining through a planet's atmosphere when it transits the face of the star. By understanding how the spectrum is formed in the star's outer layers, the MPS, MIT and St Andrews teams aim to separate stellar spectral features from the fingerprints of molecules in the atmospheres of these distant planets, using data from the James Webb Space Telescope analysed in collaboration with STScI.

Other expertise

Advanced data analysis methods; Bayesian parameter-estimation methods; signal enhancement for high resolution spectroscopy; tomographic image reconstruction and indirect imaging.

Future research

Discover and characterize extra-solar planets via transit surveys and photometric and radial-velocity followup. Determine planetary spin-orbit misalignments using the Rossiter-Mclaughlin effect and Doppler tomography. Participate in missions to search for Earth-like extra-solar planets via transit method. Develop methods for disentangling stellar activity effects from low-amplitude radial-velocity signals, and from transit spectroscopy of exoplanet atmospheres.

Industrial relevance

General large-scale inversion problems: non-invasive medical imaging.

Academic/Professional Qualification

B.Sc.(1st Hons), Physics, University of Canterbury 1979; Ph.D., Astronomy, University of Canterbury 1983; International Astronomical Union; Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (1983); Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2002).

Teaching activity

I have taught many undergraduate courses al all levels within the School. My teaching activity has included developing the new 2nd-level course on exoplanets, the 4th-level Honours module in Observational Astrophysics, and the stellar-structure component of the 4th-level Honours module Nebulae and Stars II. I have also taught the 5th-level Advanced Data Analysis module.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education

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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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  • Masses, revised radii, and a third planet candidate in the ‘Inverted’ planetary system around TOI-1266

    Cloutier, R., Greklek-McKeon, M., Wurmser, S., Cherubim, C., Gillis, E., Vanderburg, A., Hadden, S., Cadieux, C., Artigau, É., Vissapragada, S., Mortier, A., López-Morales, M., Latham, D. W., Knutson, H., Haywood, R. D., Pallé, E., Doyon, R., Cook, N., Andreuzzi, G., Cecconi, M., & 23 othersCosentino, R., Ghedina, A., Harutyunyan, A., Pinamonti, M., Stalport, M., Damasso, M., Rescigno, F., Wilson, T. G., Buchhave, L. A., Charbonneau, D., Cameron, A. C., Dumusque, X., Lovis, C., Mayor, M., Molinari, E., Pepe, F., Piotto, G., Rice, K., Sasselov, D., Ségransan, D., Sozzetti, A., Udry, S. & Watson, C. A., 1 Jan 2024, In: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 527, 3, p. 5464-5483 20 p.

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  • The magnetically quiet solar surface dominates HARPS-N solar RVs during low activity

    Lakeland, B. S., Naylor, T., Haywood, R. D., Meunier, N., Rescigno, F., Dalal, S., Mortier, A., Thompson, S. J., Cameron, A. C., Dumusque, X., López-Morales, M., Pepe, F., Rice, K., Sozzetti, A., Udry, S., Ford, E., Ghedina, A. & Lodi, M., 1 Jan 2024, In: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 527, 3, p. 7681–7691 11 p.

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  • 55 Cancri e's occultation captured with CHEOPS

    Demory, B-O., Sulis, S., Meier Valdés, E., Delrez, L., Brandeker, A., Billot, N., Fortier, A., Hoyer, S., Sousa, S. G., Heng, K., Lendl, M., Krenn, A., Morris, B. M., Patel, J. A., Alibert, Y., Alonso, R., Anglada, G., Bárczy, T., Barrado, D., Barros, S. C. C., & 56 othersBaumjohann, W., Beck, M., Beck, T., Benz, W., Bonfils, X., Broeg, C., Buder, M., Cabrera, J., Charnoz, S., Collier Cameron, A., Cottard, H., Csizmadia, S., Davies, M. B., Deleuil, M., Demangeon, O. D. S., Ehrenreich, D., Erikson, A., Fossati, L., Fridlund, M., Gandolfi, D., Gillon, M., Güdel, M., Isaak, K. G., Kiss, L. L., Laskar, J., Lecavelier des Etangs, A., Lovis, C., Luntzer, A., Magrin, D., Marafatto, L., Maxted, P. F. L., Nascimbeni, V., Olofsson, G., Ottensamer, R., Pagano, I., Pallé, E., Peter, G., Piotto, G., Pollacco, D., Queloz, D., Ragazzoni, R., Rando, N., Ratti, F., Rauer, H., Ribas, I., Santos, N. C., Scandariato, G., Ségransan, D., Simon, A. E., Smith, A. M. S., Steller, M., Szabó, G. M., Thomas, N., Udry, S., Van Grootel, V. & Walton, N. A., Jan 2023, In: Astronomy & Astrophysics. 669, 10 p., A64.

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  • A dense ring of the trans-Neptunian object Quaoar outside its Roche limit

    Morgado, B. E., Sicardy, B., Braga-Ribas, F., Ortiz, J. L., Salo, H., Vachier, F., Desmars, J., Pereira, C. L., Santos-Sanz, P., Sfair, R., de Santana, T., Assafin, M., Vieira-Martins, R., Gomes-Júnior, A. R., Margoti, G., Dhillon, V. S., Fernández-Valenzuela, E., Broughton, J., Bradshaw, J., Langersek, R., & 39 othersBenedetti-Rossi, G., Souami, D., Holler, B. J., Kretlow, M., Boufleur, R. C., Camargo, J. I. B., Duffard, R., Beisker, W., Morales, N., Lecacheux, J., Rommel, F. L., Herald, D., Benz, W., Jehin, E., Jankowsky, F., Marsh, T. R., Littlefair, S. P., Bruno, G., Pagano, I., Brandeker, A., Collier-Cameron, A., Florén, H. G., Hara, N., Olofsson, G., Wilson, T. G., Benkhaldoun, Z., Busuttil, R., Burdanov, A., Ferrais, M., Gault, D., Gillon, M., Hanna, W., Kerr, S., Kolb, U., Nosworthy, P., Sebastian, D., Snodgrass, C., Teng, J. P. & de Wit, J., 9 Feb 2023, In: Nature. 614, 7947, p. 239-243 5 p.

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  • A full transit of vLupi d and the search for an exomoon in its Hill sphere with CHEOPS

    Ehrenreich, D., Delrez, L., Akinsanmi, B., Wilson, T. G., Bonfanti, A., Beck, M., Benz, W., Hoyer, S., Queloz, D., Alibert, Y., Charnoz, S., Collier Cameron, A., Deline, A., Hooton, M., Lendl, M., Olofsson, G., Sousa, S. G., Adibekyan, V., Alonso, R., Anglada, G., & 73 othersBarrado, D., Barros, S. C. C., Baumjohann, W., Beck, T., Bekkelien, A., Bergomi, M., Billot, N., Bonfils, X., Brandeker, A., Broeg, C., Bárczy, T., Berta-Thompson, Z. K., Cabrera, J., Corral Van Damme, C., Csizmadia, S., Davies, M. B., Deleuil, M., Demangeon, O., Demory, B-O., Doty, J. P., Erikson, A., Fausnaugh, M. M., Florén, H-G., Fortier, A., Fossati, L., Fridlund, M., Futyan, D., Gandolfi, D., Gillon, M., Guterman, P., Güdel, M., Heng, K., Isaak, K. G., Jäckel, A., Jenkins, J. M., Kiss, L. L., Laskar, J., Latham, D. W., Lecavelier Des Etangs, A., Levine, A. M., Lovis, C., Magrin, D., Maxted, P. F. L., Morgan, E. H., Nascimbeni, V., Osborn, H. P., Ottensamer, R., Pagano, I., Pallé, E., Peter, G., Piotto, G., Pollacco, D., Ragazzoni, R., Rando, N., Rauer, H., Ribas, I., Ricker, G. R., Salmon, S., Santos, N. C., Scandariato, G., Simon, A. E., Smith, A. M. S., Steinberger, M., Steller, M., Szabó, G. M., Ségransan, D., Shporer, A., Thomas, N., Tschentscher, M., Udry, S., Vanderspek, R., Van Grootel, V. & Walton, N. A., 20 Mar 2023, In: Astronomy and Astrophysics. 671, 16 p., A154.

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