University College London Featured PhD Programmes
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University College London Featured PhD Programmes
University of East Anglia Featured PhD Programmes
University College London Featured PhD Programmes

Preparatory Research for the Comet Interceptor Mission

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 31, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

In June 2019, the European Space Agency selected Comet Interceptor as its next planetary mission, to be launched in 2028. MSSL has a leading role in the project, both at mission level and in planned scientific instrumentation to be carried on the spacecraft. Comet Interceptor will be delivered to Sun-Earth Lagrange Point L2, and will stay there awaiting the discovery of a suitable long period comet or interstellar object target. Once one is found, Comet Interceptor will leave L2 to perform a flyby of the object.

The mission, which consists of a main spacecraft and two smaller probes, will carry several different instruments to study the comet nucleus, gas, dust, and its interaction with the solar wind. A PhD studentship is offered to conduct original research in support of the mission’s aims. This research could concentrate on one or more of several topics, including, but not limited to:

The search for, and characterization of, suitable long period comets and interstellar objects using ground-based telescopes.
A study of how multi-point measurements made by the mission, both in situ and remote, could be employed to learn about the target comet.

Designing observational sequences to maximize the scientific return from the mission’s instruments.

The mission’s website is available at

Desired Knowledge and Skills

• Undergraduate degree in astronomy, astrophysics, physics, or another closely-related field.
• Good computational skills


Applications submitted by 31st January 2020 will be given full consideration. We will continue accepting applications until all places are filled. After we receive your application, we will select candidates for interviews. If you are selected, you will be invited for an interview at MSSL. You will have the opportunity to see the laboratory, students' flats and talk to current students. The studentships are for the advertised projects only. In your application, please specify which project you want to apply for.

To apply, please visit the Online Application page, select department of "Space & Climate Physics" and programme type of "Postgraduate Research". After pushing "Search Now" button, select "RRDSPSSING01: Research Degree: Space and Climate Physics" for Full-time or Part-time mode.
Our Online Applications page can be found here:

Entry requirements

An upper second-class Bachelor’s degree, or a second-class Bachelor’s degree together with a Master's degree from a UK university in a relevant subject, or an equivalent overseas qualification.

Students from the UK or those from the EU who meet the residency requirements (3 years' full-time residency in the UK) are potentially eligible for a Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) studentship.

Funding Notes

These pay UK/EU tuition fees and a maintenance allowance for 3.5 years (subject to the PhD upgrade review).

EU students who do not meet eligibility requirements still qualify for the UK/EU fees rate, but not the STFC maintenance allowance.

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