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Planetary & Space Sciences

Our research covers a wide range of Solar System science and exploration. We investigate the origin and evolution of the Solar System, through the physical, geological, chemical and biological processes that drive it. We use laboratory and space mission experiments, remote observation, environmental simulation and modelling to investigate the surfaces and atmospheres of the terrestrial planets, the Moon, asteroids, comets and extraterrestrial materials.

Research activity in PSS is funded mostly by the UK Science & Technology Funding Council (STFC), the European Space Agency and European Union, but also draws in support from other research councils, charities and industry.

PSS has a long history of involvement in major Solar System exploration missions through the exploitation of instruments developed at the OU, such as on Cassini Huygens, Stardust, Genesis and Rosetta, and through international collaborative teams. PSS members are active in the development of new mission proposals and studies with ESA, other space agencies and national programmes.

Our extensive laboratory facilities are broadly sub-divided into those used to characterise the chemistry and isotopic composition of matter in the Solar System or the simulation of Earth and Planetary processes. Instruments include start-of-the-art commercially sourced (e.g. NanoSIMS; FIB-SEM; laser Raman microprobe; MS and GC-MS) as well as unique instruments developed in-house (e.g. ‘Finesse’ mass spectrometer; Mars atmosphere and surface simulation chambers; Cometary surface simulation chamber; All-Angle Light Gas Gun). These are backed up by clean rooms and sample preparation facilities, instrument development laboratories and an extensive meteorite collection.

We have a vibrant community of research staff and PhD students, with regular opportunities for those interested in Planetary Sciences. Members of PSS contribute to a range of undergraduate courses - reflecting the multi-disciplinary nature of PSS research.