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Exoplanets and planetary physics

Artist’ impression of an exoplanet transiting its host star (used as cover image for S382 book; copyright ESA)

The study of exoplanets is a rapidly moving field at the forefront of astrophysics. The Astronomy Discipline is involved in finding important new exoplanets, including Proxima b which was widely hailed as one of the most important science discoveries of 2016.  We also perform multiwavelength follow-up studies of established planets, consider habitability in novel contexts, and model of exoplanetary atmospheres and interiors.

We are members of the SuperWASP, PLATO, CHEOPS and PaleRedDot consortia, and lead the Dispersed Matter Planet Project (DMPP) which has identified a key population of rocky exoplanets orbiting bright nearby stars. Our exoplanets researchers frequently use the Hubble Space Telescope, precision spectrographs HARPS and UVES, other competitively awarded telescopes, and we also use our own PIRATE and COAST telescopes on the island of Tenerife.

The group closely collaborates with the department's planetary science and space instrumentation groups, especially in the areas of exoplanet compositions, planetary atmospheres, habitability and dust from catastrophically disintegrating planets like Kepler 1502b.

Qualifications available:

PhD or MPhil

Fees:

For detailed information on current fees visit Fees and funding.

Entry requirements:

Minimum 2:1 degree in physics or a related subject (or equivalent)

Potential research projects

We welcome enquiries from prospective students in the following areas:
  • Rocky exoplanet compositions
  • A Galactic population model of planets
  • Habitability of planets around white dwarf stars
  • Mass loss from close-in exoplanets
  • Dynamics of multiple exoplanet systems
  • Earth analogue exoplanets
  • Planet searches around nearby M dwarf stars

Please also see further opportunities.

Current/recent research projects

  • Discovery of close-in planets around nearby stars (DMPP)
  • The mass-radius-composition relationships for low mass exoplanets
  • Discovery of Proxima b, a potentially habitable exoplanet orbiting the sun's nearest stellar neighbour
  • Follow-up photometry of transiting exoplanet candidates with the OpenScience Observatories
  • False-positive signal in exoplanet transit searches
  • Measuring the dust properties of Kepler 1520b
  • Nearby analogues of Kepler 1520b

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

Name:
Administrative support
Email:
STEM-SPS-PhD-Admin@open.ac.uk
Phone:
+44 (0)1908 858253

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under 'Your Questions' on the right of the page.