Luke Keller maintains research programs in imaging and spectroscopic instrumentation and in the astrophysics of star formation and planetary system formation. He is also a member of the Ithaca College physics education research group.
Luke is a co-investigator on a team that built the Faint Object Infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope (FORCAST), a mid-infrared camera that will operate on the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), 2.7-meter telescope housed in a 747 aircraft. He lead the final optical design, helped test the FORCAST optical system, and lead development of the FORCAST data analysis software. He now leads a team funded by the Universities Space Research Association to add spectroscopic capabilities to FORCAST. In 2010 the camera system flew on the first flights of SOFIA dedicated to telescope system testing and astronomical research. Luke documents the progress of FORCAST and SOFIA on his blog Frequent Flyer.
Luke's astrophysical interests are in the chemistry and evolution of proto-stellar and proto-planetary objects. He is a member of a team that used the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope to gather infrared spectra of dust and gas orbiting stars other than the sun. He and his students process spectra from Spitzer data archives and analyze the results, looking for atomic and molecular signatures of material that may be forming planets. Luke also uses ground-based observatories to gather spectra and images of these objects. His current focus is on Herbig AeBe stars, a class of stars that are several times more massive than the sun and show evidence of disks of gas and dust orbiting them, which appear to be the precursors to solar systems.