The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope is currently under construction on the Cerro Pachón ridge in Chile. One of the aims of this project is to use data from this telescope to better understand planet formation.

Credit: LSST Project/NSF/AURA

PhD opportunity: Watching as planets form

Supervisor: Professor Tim Naylor

The outline of planet formation is well understood, 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 so poorly understood it is impossible to predict the outcomes of the planet formation process such as the distribution of planet masses and orbits. Whilst planets are forming around stars, the stars themselves are also evolving rapidly. For instance, most of them have not yet reached the core temperatures required for them to begin their nuclear burning, and are still being powered by the gravitational energy released from their continued contraction.

This project is to use the new large surveys becoming available to understand how stars change as planets form around them, and how the planets themselves form. It will begin by using the latest data from GAIA (an ESA mission which is currently revolutionising stellar astronomy) to study the contraction of the stars, which has effects on the planets which form in the discs surrounding them. Later in the PhD the emphasis will shift to studying the time variability of these stars using data from the Large Synopic Survey Telescope, the first data from which will be arriving in 2020 and 2021, since the time variability can tell us about the planets which are forming in discs.

For more details on this project please contact Prof Tim Naylor.