Watching as the planets form

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Physics


We understand the broad outline of planet formation, in that planets form in the discs around young stars. However, important physical processes such as the viscosity in the disc and the formation of planetesimals are poorly understood. This makes it impossible to predict the outcomes of the planet-formation process, such as the distribution of planet masses and orbits. Recent work at Exeter has shown that during planet formation the disc can undergo huge outbursts, when a wave of material flows through the disc towards the star. If we can discover these outbursts in their early stages, and carry out follow-up observations they have the potential to give insights into the physics of these discs, and hence into planet formation.

A new generation of sky surveys is giving us the ability to carry this work out, from GAIA (an ESA mission which is currently revolutionising stellar astronomy) to the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (an 8-m telescope commissioning in 2021-2 with the potential to image the entire available sky every three days). But they need to be coupled to the bespoke follow-up observations and the innovative software (including machine learning techniques) which form the core of this PhD project.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ST/V506679/1 30/09/2020 29/09/2024
2405884 Studentship ST/V506679/1 30/09/2020 31/03/2024 Ben Scott Lakeland