Prof. Shay Zucker studies mainly binary stars and extrasolar planets (exoplanets). However, sometimes he also studies other astronomical phenomena, starting from asteroids in the Solar System, through stars orbiting the center of the Milky Way galaxy, and even quasars. The recurrent theme in all those studies is the use of statistical methods and the application of advanced methods of astronomical data analysis ("astrostatistics").
In 1994 (while still a Master's student) Prof. Zucker published, together with his then advisor Prof. Tsevi Mazeh, the algorithm TODCOR, for measuring radial velocities of spectroscopic binary stars. Eventually the algorithm became a basic tool in the study of binary stars.
In 2001 he was a member of the team who discovered the exoplanet HD209458b, which later became the first known exoplanet transiting its host star.
In 2003, as part of his PhD research, he developed, together with Prof. Mazeh and Prof. Géza Kovács from Hungary, the BLS algorithm, for the detection of transiting exoplanets. The BLS became a standard tool in the search of planets, and many of the known exoplanets were detected by teams who used the BLS to detect them.
In 2004, as a post-doctoral fellow in the group of Nobel laureate Michel Mayor at the Observatory of Geneva in Switzerland, he led a Swiss-Israeli team who discovered a unique system, HD41004, which included two stars, a brown dwarf and a planet, using an upgraded version of TODCOR.
As a post-doctoral fellow in the Weizmann Institute of Science, he led a team from the Weizmann Institute and from Max Planck Institute in Germany, including Nobel laureate Reinhard Genzel, who showed the importance of relativistic (post-newtonian) effects in the observed orbits of stars around the center of the Milky Way galaxy.
Based on those results, and together with the late Prof. Tal Alexander from the Weizmann Institute and Prof. Tsevi Mazeh, they predicted in 2007 the possibility of detecting a new kind of binary stars - "beaming binary stars". The orbital motion of those stars induces miniscule changes in their photometric signals which may be detectable by modern instruments. This prediction has already been corroborated numerous times using the Kepler satellite.
Currently Prof. Zucker is a member of the DPAC consortium, which is in charge of analyzing the data obtained by the Gaia space telescope of the European Space Agency. Within DPAC, Prof. Zucker is affiliated with the CU7 group, which is dedicated to analyze and characterize temporal variability. Prof. Zucker is focusing on the possibility to detect transiting planets by Gaia.
Recently Prof. Zucker teamed up with Dr. Raja Giryes, of the School of Electrical Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering, and together they apply methods of Deep Learning to solve the challenge of detecting terrestrial planets in signals affected by the variability of the host stars ("red noise"). This a major hurdle to overcome in the search for habitable planets.