The astrophysics research in the School is focused on rings and disks. More specifically - planetary rings like those found around Saturn. These nearby rings act as a local astrophysical laboratory where we can study complex dynamics along with moon formation through spacecraft observations and computer modelling. Close up images show a vast array of complex structures due to interaction between nearby moons and ring material which can only be seen by an in-situ space craft (Cassini).
Emerging interests in exoplanetary research are starting to focus on moons around exoplanets that are large enough to support life. Thousands of newly discovered and vastly more complex planetary systems that our own Solar System so far have been found around other stars. If many of these exoplanets are capable of harbouring Earth mass sized moons did they form around the planet (like our largest moons in the Solar System) or are they captured smaller planets that came to close? We aim to investigate the evolution of self-gravitating disks around some of these dynamic new exoplanetary systems found and find if moon could form.
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