Research course

Comets and Asteroids

Institution
Open University · Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute - PSSRI
Qualifications
PhDMPhil

Entry requirements

Minimum 2:1 (or equivalent) in a physical science subject

Months of entry

October

Course content

Asteroids and comets are the residual material left from the formation of planets in the inner and outer Solar System respectively. Unlike the planets, many retain material relatively unaltered since their formation 4.6 billion years ago. Their current dynamical and physical properties provide information on their formation and evolution. Our group in the Department of Physical Sciences has developed instrumentation for a number of comet missions including Giotto, Stardust and Rosetta, and we are currently involved in the Hayabusa 2 and OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return missions.

We use a range of ground- and space-based telescopes to study the properties of the nuclei and dust production of comets as well as physical properties of near-Earth asteroids. Our world-leading Advanced Thermophysical Model provides insight into the importance of thermal processes on the physical and dynamical evolution of small asteroids. Laboratory simulations include the evolution of dusty ice cometary anologue surfaces and the effects of impacts on asteroids. Postgraduate students are involved in all aspects of these studies.

Current/recent research projects:
  • Origin and evolution of comet nuclei
  • In-situ measurements of cometary dust
  • Physical properties of cometary nucleus analogues for rosetta

Potential supervisors:

  • Dr Ian Franchi – Senior research Fellow – Asteroid sample Return missions
  • Dr Simon Green – Senior Lecturer in Planetary and Space Science – Asteroid and cometary dust observations and mission studies
  • Dr Axel Hagermann – Senior lecturer – Laboratory studies of cometary ices and thermal modelling
  • Dr Manish Patel – Lecturer – Laboratory impact studies
  • Dr Ben Rozitis – Royal Astronomical Society Fellow – Asteroid thermal modelling
  • Dr Colin Snodgrass – Ernest Rutherford Research Fellow – Comet and asteroid observations
  • Professor Ian Wright – Professor of Planetary sciences – Composition and origin of comets

Department specialisms

Momentum transfer from impacts on asteroid analogue surfaces Thermal and physical properties of comets – laboratory simulations and Rosetta MUPUS results Observations of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko: Linking Rosetta and ground-based results Projects can involve a combination of ground and space-based observations, space mission data analysis, laboratory work, computer modelling or simulation.

Fees and funding

For detailed information on current fees visit: Fees and funding

Qualification and course duration

PhD

full time
48 months
part time
72 months

MPhil

part time
24 months
full time
15 months

Course contact details

Name
Administrative support
Email
science-phd-enquiries@open.ac.uk
Phone
+44 (0)1908 659036