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  1. School of Physical Sciences
  2. Planetary & Space Sciences
  3. Planetary and Space Sciences Research

Planetary and Space Sciences Research

Research in PSS addresses a broad range of scientific problems across planetary science, from the very creation of the elements through the formation of the gas and dust cloud that went on to form our Solar System to the formation, evolution and current environments of planetary bodies. The principal areas of current research include:

  • Meteorites and Interplanetary Dust: Offer the opportunity to investigate the formation of the elements, conditions between the stars, and the formation of our Solar System and its planetary bodies through laboratory analysis of extra-terrestrial samples. Particular areas of interest are oxygen isotope analysis and the role of water in the early Solar System; the origin of chondrules; Interplanetary Dust Particle properties as tracers of comet formation; the origin and modification of organics in meteorites.
  • Asteroids: Exploring their chemical and physical properties, origin and evolution including the terrestrial impact hazard, through analysis of meteorites, Earth-based observations, space missions and laboratory impact studies.
  • Comets: Investigating the chemical and physical properties of comets and their formation in the outer solar nebula through laboratory analysis of NASA Stardust samples, instrumentation on board the ESA Rosetta mission and Earth-based observations.
  • The Moon: Investigation of the inventory of volatiles and their role in the evolution of lunar materials through laboratory analysis of lunar samples and future mission design.
  • Mars: Exploration of the martian surface environment, using satellite imaging, atmospheric modelling, instrumentation for ExoMars and analysis of martian meteorites.
  • Mercury: Investigation of the geology and surface composition through involvement in the Messenger and Bepi-Colombo missions.
  • Titan: Following up our successful involvement in the Huygens lander with simulation of the Titan environment and new mission studies.
  • Planetary atmospheric modelling: Understanding atmospheres from global scale to the near-surface heat and volatile exchange processes on terrestrial planets.
  • Thermal processes: Modelling of thermal emission from atmosphereless bodies to investigate their physical and dynamical evolution.
  • Astrobiology: Exploring the extreme conditions where life can exist and its fate in the environment of space.

The research areas within PSS are all inter-connected – with many activities spanning a number of different approaches such as sample analysis, spacecraft in situ and remote observation, simulation and lab experiment and with strong links with the Space Instrumentation and Astronomy Disciplines and areas of the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystems.