Institute for Astronomy

Solar System PhD Projects

PhD Research Projects on offer in our Solar System Group:

Evolution of comets

Colin Snodgrass

ESA recently selected the Comet Interceptor mission to visit a ‘new’ comet. How do we tell the difference between a new and a returning comet? This observational project will look both at the evolution of short-period cometary nuclei as they experience repeated close passes to the Sun (following on from the work of Kokotanekova et al, 2018), and search for observational clues to differences between new and returning long-period comets, to inform the target selection for Comet Interceptor. This will mix targeted observations using a variety of large telescopes, and use data from the new LSST survey.


Comets in the ultra-violet

Colin Snodgrass, Chris Evans, Ruben Sanchez-Janssen

The UV region of comet spectra is rich with emission features from the gasses in their coma, and also shows great promise for studying how much water is buried in the asteroid belt, by studying the weak activity of ‘main belt comets’. This project will include developing models of cometary activity and the resulting UV flux, and then applying these to both existing data sets (e.g. from the Rosetta mission, and from remote telescopic observations) and to model the performance of future UV instrumentation, to optimise future ground- and space-based observatories for comet observations, and to plan observations with the UV camera on the recently selected ESA Comet Interceptor mission.