Research in planetary and space sciences takes place in one of the UK’s leading centres of excellence for such activities, with a multidisciplinary approach to the subject under the unifying themes of the formation and evolution of the Solar System, planetary exploration and the study of life in extreme environments.
Geologists, astronomers, chemists, physicists and microbiologists work together on space-flight instrumentation, extraterrestrial sample analysis, ground and space-based observations, theoretical modelling and experimental simulations of extraterrestrial processes. Planetary and Space Sciences, which is part of the Department of Physical Sciences, is a core member of CEPSAR, the University’s interdisciplinary Centre for Research in Physical and Environmental Sciences.
PhD projects are offered in all of these areas as well as for industrial collaborations on detector technology, medical, environmental and security spin-offs.
Our world-class analytical facilities include a range of state-of-the-art stable isotope mass spectrometers, a NanoSIMS ion microprobe, an analytical scanning electron microscope with integrated Focused Ion Beam milling, gas chromatography-MS and -TOFMS, a range of optical microscope systems including laser Raman microprobe and UV-Vis Microphotospectrometer, and a microbiology lab equipped for culturing aerobic and anaerobic micro-organisms and molecular biology. We also have a large meteorite collection that provides extraterrestrial samples for the range of micro-analytical facilities.
Instrument laboratories are used for development of space experiments and terrestrial mass spectrometer applications. Space environment chambers are used to simulate the surfaces of Mars, Titan, asteroids and comets, and to test and calibrate space instruments. The imaging semiconductor test laboratory is used for development and testing of detectors for astronomical and terrestrial applications and the Hypervelocity Impact Laboratory houses a Light Gas Gun and electrostatic dust accelerator.
Students also have access to analytical facilities across the CEPSAR suite, as well as the University research computer cluster.