Dr Craig Agnor
Senior Lecturer in Astronomy
Email: email@example.comTelephone: 020 7882 3464Room Number: G. O. Jones Building, Room 505
My teaching for this year includes:
- SPA5241 Planetary Systems (Term A)
- SPA6776 Extended Independent Project
- SPA6913 Physics Review Project
- SPA7016 Physics Research Project
- I have also written the module MTH6110 Communicating and Teaching Mathematics that is offered through the School of Mathematical Sciences.
The overarching goal of my research is to understand the origin of planets and satellites. More specifically, I am interested in how gravitational dynamics determine the orbital structure of planetary systems and how giant collisions may account for the development of particular planetary characteristics (e.g. large obliquities, satellite formation, thermal excess/deficits). In this work I utilize a combination of analytic theory and numerical simulation (e.g., N-body orbital integrations, hydrodynamic calculations of planetary collisions) to examine the collisional and dynamical evolution of planets.
In the past my work has addressed a variety of topics in solar system evolution including:
- The formation of the terrestrial planets and the origin of the Earth/Moon system.
- The capture of Neptune's large retrograde moon Triton.
- `Giant Impacts' between planets and the origin of planetary characteristics.
- Understanding the implications of large-scale orbital migration of the solar system's giant planets.
This is not an exhaustive list and I would be happy to discuss other project possibilities.
Giant Planet Migration in the Solar System
Recent observations of star-forming regions in the Galatic Center have revealed the presence of prebiotic molecular species such as glycolaldehyde, the simplest sugar, or formamide, a precursor of amino acids. Amino acids are key ingredients in the synthesis of proteins and therefore they are considered as the building blocks of life. Glycine is the simplest amino acid and, although it has been reported in meteorites and in comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by the Rosetta mission, its detection in the interstellar medium (ISM) remains elusive.
In this project, the student will analyse observations of the rotational molecular emission obtained toward a sample of Giant Molecular Clouds (GMCs) in the Galactic Center to characterise the chemistry of these complex organic molecules in space. Sub-/millimetre data from international facilities such as the IRAM 30m single-dish telescope, the Submillimeter Array (SMA) and the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA), will be used. The goal of the project will be to constrain the dominant formation/destruction processes of glycine in the ISM to determine the likelihood of detection in the Galactic Center GMCs with future instrumentation such as the Band 1 of ALMA and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). For full details click here
Collisional Evolution of Planets and Satellites
Giant impacts (i.e., collisions between like-sized objects) are a ubiquitous feature of planet and satellite formation. Our previous work in this area has illustrated that for dynamical environments, typical of late stage terrestrial planet formation, a variety of impact outcomes are plausible ranging from the production of impact-generated satellites to catastrophic disruption. This work has been expanded to consider global collisions of giant planets, terrestrial planets, and planetary satellites. In all such cases, colliding bodies are geophysically processed on a global scale in a variety of unique ways. The universality of large-scale giant impacts renders them a principal evolutionary process for all types of planets, planetary satellites and ring systems.
The principal goal of this programme is to examine how giant impacts process material and determine diversity of planetary and satellite characteristics that have collisional origins. This effort involves coupling the context of giant impacts (e.g., planetary formation, planet migration, satellite evolution) to the outcomes of individual collisions and the collision histories of evolving worlds. The project will focus on a single class of objects (e.g. giant planets, terrestrial planets, planetary satellites). This work will involve using state-of-the-art numerical modeling of individual giant impacts (e.g. using Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics or N-body gravity codes) and modelling their collisional and orbital evolution. For full details click here