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(STFC DTP) Planetary Impact Distributions


Project Description

Does the Earth have a uniform impact rate of extraterrestrial material? If not, then why? Going further, how do the causes of Earth’s rate vary from planet to planet and moon to moon? Or indeed, can observations of impact cratering tell us about historical information about the orbits of the planet/moons? These seem quite fundamental questions, but answering them has proven much harder. After all, contemporary flux rates offer only a brief snapshot of recent history, and plate tectonics and surface process alter the spread and observability of impact craters. Yet the untangling of these processes has the potential to allow us insight into a great length of planetary evolution.

The purpose of this project is to use a mixture of mathematics, physics and planetary observations to develop models which can answer the above questions. It will build upon work on the latitudinal variation in the flux of extraterrestrial material to Earth (itself calculated, in part, from meteorites retrieved in Antarctica). It will also examine previous attempts to answer these questions, which have drawn different conclusions (the underlying model having distinct methodologies and assumptions). Yet these models appear to not be in keeping with contemporary observations from fireball networks. Seeking a resolution between these two approaches is essential, and will allow for the modelling to be confidently applied to the Moon and Mars (for which we have a good database of the geographical spread of craters), so as to better understand their impact history.

To help answer these questions, and develop new questions, a student with a strong applied mathematics/physics//planetary science (and interdisciplinary mindset) is sought.

Suggested skills needed: A good knowledge applied mathematics, and ideally orbital motion, is required. A familiarity of the Solar System’s planets and moons is desirable. The ability to work both independently and as part of a team is essential.

References

Halliday, I. 1964. The Variation in the Frequency of Meteorite Impact with Geographic Latitude. Meteoritics 2, 271–278.

Le Feuvre, M., and Wieczorek, M.A. 2008. Nonuniform cratering of the terrestrial planets. Icarus 197, 291–306, doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2008.04.011
NASA CNEOS 2019. NASA CNEOS Fireball Database. https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/fireballs/
Öpik, E. J. 1963. The stray bodies in the solar system. Part I. Survival of cometary nuclei and the asteroids. Adv. Astron. Astrophys, 2, 219-262.

Related Subjects

How good is research at The University of Manchester in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 42.13

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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