School of Physics and Astronomy

Collisional Evolution of Planets and Satellites

Research Group:Astronomy Unit

Number of Students:1

Length of Study in Years: 3-4

Full-time Project: yes


QM Scholarship

Project Description:

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.


Analytical skills, experience in scientific programming and a strong desire for theoretical work are required.

SPA Academics: Craig Agnor