Current Research Project
The Outer Solar System at the Dawn of the Legacy Survey of Space and Time
The small bodies of the outer Solar System are the leftover material from the formation of our current planets, and they serve as fossil record of the Solar System's history. With over ~4000 known icy planetesimals, studying their ensemble properties can help inform us to the various stages in building up a planetary system.
My PhD work so far has been focused on studying the rotation of these bodies with multifilter photometry to probe the distribution of surface volatiles. Kuiper belt objects (or, KBOs) are typically reddish, which is thought to originate from irradiated hydrocarbons known as tholins (in layman's terms: organic gunk). If we observe a full rotation of a given KBO, small dips in the lightcurve amplitude in bluer filters relative to redder ones should indicate the presence of tholins. Understanding surface composition is especially important at intermediate sized KBOs where the transition from volatile-poor small KBOs to volatile-rich dwarf planet occurs.
Prior to beginning my PhD, I completed my 4 year undergraduate MSci course for Physics with Astrophysics here at Queen's Unviersity Belfast, wherein I was awarded the Raymond Greer Prize. My Masters project involved investigating the dust activity of several Jupiter-family comets by way of their Afρ paramter. Not satisfied with small, icy, dust balls, I've now moved on to bigger and better things - slightly bigger icy rocks. I'm particularly keen on outreach as well, creating promotional material and working with others on how best to engage the general public with our fascinating field.
- KBO rotational properties
- Centaur activity
- Observational astronomy