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Marriages Made in Heaven: the Origin of Multiple Star Systems

Cardiff School of Physics and Astronomy

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Prof A Whitworth , Dr P Clark No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Cardiff United Kingdom Astrophysics

About the Project

Context. Most high- and intermediate-mass stars are in stable multiple systems, usually binary
systems where the two stars pursue elliptical orbits round each other, but quite often higher-order
multiples involving three or more stars. These systems must be created as part of the star formation
process (it is very hard to get two stars together, after they have formed). Indeed, the observational
evidence suggests that almost all stars form in multiple systems, but then some of the more fragile
systems are destroyed by external tidal forces or intrinsic instability. Forming multiple systems with
the statistical properties of observed systems is therefore one of the main challenges of star formation

Project. This project will use numerical simulations to explore the formation dynamics, stability
and orbital parameters (mass ratios, separations and eccentricities) of multiple systems, starting from
initial conditions that are informed by the latest high-resolution observations; we will be particularly
concerned with multiple systems forming in cores that have condensed out of laments. The majority
of stars that do not end up in multiple systems have low-mass and the project will also explore
how these objects form and why they tend to end up single. One possibility is that they form in
circumstellar discs, but then fail to acquire enough mass and are ejected from the disc by interaction
with more massive siblings. An alternative possibility is that they form in the laments that funnel
matter into forming star clusters. A third possibility is that they form in isolation, from exceptionally
dense low-mass cores. We will determine which of these scenarios is most viable and why.
Skills. The student will become expert in numerical hydrodynamics, magnetic, thermal, chemical
and radiative processes in star forming gas, and statistical techniques for converting observations
into initial conditions for simulations.

This project will be funded by the STFC.
Applicants should apply to the Doctor of Philosophy in Physics and Astronomy with a start date of 1st October 2021.

How to Apply:

Applicants should submit an application for postgraduate study via the Cardiff University webpages ( including:

• an upload of your CV
• a personal statement/covering letter
• two references
• Current academic transcripts

Applicants should select Doctor of Philosophy, with a start date of October 2021.

In the research proposal section of your application, please specify the project title and supervisors of this project. If you are applying for more than one project, please list the individual titles of the projects in the text box provided. In the funding section, please select ’I will be applying for a scholarship/grant’ and specify that you are applying for advertised funding from the STFC. Shortlisted candidates will be invited to attend an interview in February.

Entry requirements:

Candidates should have obtained, or be about to obtain a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree in Physics, or a related subject, Alternatively, applicants with equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK will also be considered. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a Master’s degree.

Applicants whose first language is not English are normally expected to meet the minimum University requirements (e.g. 6.5 IELTS)
Please see our English Language Requirements guidance ( for more details.

Funding Notes

This research project is one of a number of projects in the Cardiff School of Physics and Astronomy. It is in competition for STFC funding with one or more of these projects.

This project is eligible for a fully funded STFC studentship which includes :
• A full UK fee waiver for 3.5 years
• An annual tax free stipend of £15,285 (2020/2021)
• Research Training Support Grant (RTSG)
• Conference Fees & UK Fieldwork fun

Self-funded applicants can also be considered for this project.

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