Institute of Astronomy

Solar System

Of all planetary systems, our Solar System is the one we know the most about. Though the major planets are the most well known component, the Solar system abounds with asteroids, comets, moons, Kuiper belt objects, and dust.  Owing to their numerousness, modelling the dynamic and collisional evolution of these small bodies can teach us a lot about the history of the Solar system.  Modelling the production and evolution of dust gives us a ground truth to validate our models so that they may be applied to extra-Solar systems, where typically the dust is all that is observable.

It is these small bodies that our group studies.  Grant Kennedy and Mark Wyatt have investigated the collisional evolution of irregular moons, and show that the dust created in these collisions may be bright enough to be detectable.  Andrew Shannon and Mark Wyatt have investigated how proto-comets are transported to the Oort cloud, and are characterising how the present day composition of Oort cloud bodies can tell us about the history of the Solar system.  Alan Jackson and Mark Wyatt has investigated how debris from the Moon-forming impact evolved, finding that such impacts must be rare around other stars. Andrew Shannon has invested how Kuiper belt objects were assembled, showing that traditional models where large bodies grow by colliding with one another cannot produce the observed Kuiper belt, nor debris disks, growth by the accretion of small pebbles can produce a general match to both.  Andrew Shannon and Mark Wyatt modelled the migration of dust in the inner Solar system, showing that the dust cloud trailing the Earth (see image below) indicated most of the zodiacal cloud is produced by comets, rather than asteroids.

Page last updated: 15 March 2016 at 13:33