Terrestrial planet formation (GLG-598)
Terrestrial planet formation is a very active field, and the formation of Earth and other planets has undergone a revolution in terms of solar
system theories and extrasolar planetary exploration. In this course students learnt how we think the planets formed as dynamical, physical,
and thermodynamical systems, with an emphasis on the physical process of accretion and its clues in geochemistry, planetary structure and orbital
architecture. The course was quantitative and included regular problem sets and reading assignments, culminating in a short research
paper or literature review and a final written exam.
Astrophysical fluid dynamics - Supervisor
My role as a supervisor was to go through the solutions to the weekly problem sets with the students in groups of 2-3.
Fluids are ubiquitous in the Universe on all scales. As well as obvious fluids (e.g. the gas that is in stars or clouds in the interstellar medium)
a variety of other systems are amenable to a fluid dynamical description - including the dust that makes up the rings of Saturn and even the
orbits of stars in the galactic potential. Although some of the techniques of conventional (terrestrial) fluid dynamics are relevant to astrophysical
fluids, there are some important differences: astronomical objects are often self-gravitating or else may be accelerated by powerful gravitational
fields to highly supersonic velocities. In the latter case, the flows are highly compressible and strong shock fronts are often observed (for example,
the spiral shocks that are so prominent in the gas of galaxies like the Milky Way).
In this course, we consider a wide range of topical issues in astronomy, such as the propagation of supernova shock waves through the interstellar
medium, the internal structure of stars and the variety of instabilities that affect interstellar/intergalactic gas. These include, perhaps most
importantly, the Jeans instability whose action is responsible for the formation of every star and galaxy in the Universe. We also deal with exotic
astronomical environments, such as the orbiting discs of gas which feed black holes.