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Rock vapor dynamics in the envelopes of young exoplanets

Academic lead
Richard Booth, Physics and Astronomy
Adrian Barker, Maths
Project themes
Geophysical and Astrophysical Flows

We now know that while most stars host planets, their planetary systems are quite unlike our own and their formation histories were likely different to that of the Earth. A key difference is that most planets were already able to capture a significant hydrogen envelope long before they grew to their final sizes (a few times more massive than the Earth). These thick hydrogen atmospheres can vaporize rocky material as it falls onto the planets and the rock vapour mixes with the atmosphere. The planets then continue to grow as the rock vapor saturates and rains out onto the planet’s surface. The properties of these planets, such as the masses of the envelopes they can capture, are sensitive to how the envelope evolves and this depends on the efficiency of convection, which is strongly modified by the presence of rock vapor and poorly understood. In this project you will use hydrodynamical numerical simulations of a doubly-diffusive two-phase fluid accounting for condensation to explore the dynamics of these envelopes, studying the convection and the rain out of rock vapor. The results of these studies will then be used to better understand how these planets evolve.