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   Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

  ,  Monday, February 06, 2023  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Project overview. The UK has several meteor observation camera networks set up to observe meteorite fall events. These networks were successfully used to predict the track of the recent Winchcombe UK meteorite event in February 2021. The project goals of this PhD are to develop new UK-based capabilities for analysing camera, radar and other records of meteoroid arrival, which will help to both improve determination of the original orbit and size of the arriving body, and to make an accurate prediction of the location of any surviving meteorite fragments.

Project description. Extra-terrestrial material collides with the Earth daily, but when the colliding objects are large enough and coherent enough, they survive the atmospheric entry and can be recovered on the ground as a meteorite rock sample. Observing the atmospheric trajectory of the incoming object is scientifically useful to understanding how big the object was when in space, where its source region in the solar system is, and to determine the mechanical strength profile of the body and strewn field of the surviving meteorite fragments. The latter is notably critical to the rapid recovery of the meteorite, ensuring that samples are collected quickly and using appropriate collection techniques to maintain their scientific integrity. To date, only about forty meteorites worldwide (including Winchcombe) have been paired with precise pre-impact orbital data and mass estimates. This activity complements spacecraft sample return in mapping the geology of the solar system.

This project will focus on utilising data from the different fireball networks (mostly using the French FRIPON / UK SCAMP networks, which UoM and the NHM are a part of) and other available complementary datasets, to identify and analyse sources of systemic error in the various existing methods of fireball trajectory and mass estimation. We will systematically review the computed pre-atmospheric fireball orbits (of which FRIPON network for example has ~3,000), to correlate the observed meteoroid physical properties to orbital source regions of present-day fireball events: even if a stone was not dropped on the ground, we will investigate whether the fireballs originate from similar asteroid belt orbits, particular NEO populations, or are any associated with lunar or martian origins? This task will help to assess the orbital pathways that result in delivery of material from particular orbits/planetary bodies, and to ask why this might induce bias in meteorite recovery potential. A goal of the project is to develop an end-to-end toolset for holistic analysis of optical, acoustic, Doppler radar, and other types of fireball records to make accurate predictions of meteorite fall zones in the future and facilitate rapid recovery.

Suggested skills needed. This project would be well suited for candidates with a strong background (MSci or MSc) in Astrophysics, Maths, or Atmospheric Sciences. Ideally you would have written an independent project as part of your degree programme and have experience with computer programming in Python.

Please contact in an email to discuss the project before you apply.

Project collaborators will also be included from the University of Manchester Atmospheric Sciences Research group including Dr Andrew Smedley, Dr Jonny Crosier, and Prof. David Schultz, and the wider UKFAll meteor camera observation network.

Application process – essential information you need to read:


·        You are applying for a fully funded PhD project for which, if you are successful in your application, you would receive a monthly stipend, have the university fees paid for, and be awarded some money to support lab costs and travel.

·        Read the information on the DEES webpage to ensure that you understand the funding eligibility requirements for the award.

·        Contact the supervisors to discuss your interest in the project – this is an essential step so that you can ask questions and find out more about the supervisory team before you apply.

·        Your formal application must be made online at (please note you will not need to upload your own research proposal for this project during this stage of the application as you are applying for a specific project). In your application, we want to see how your experience is relevant to the project that you have applied for. Please ensure that the people you have asked to submit references for you do this by the requested date. You are applying for an STFC-funded project (PhD STFC Earth and Environmental Sciences). Please check with the project supervisor(s) that your application has been received by the university a few days before the deadline.

·        As this is a funded position, the application process is competitive. The applications received will be initially reviewed by the project supervisory team and they will put forward their preferred candidates for a panel review process. An STFC DTP academic panel will then review all the nominated students and decide who to shortlist for an interview. An interview with shortlisted candidates will then take place remotely so that the panel can meet the short-listed candidates and decide who to offer the studentship to. The interview normally lasts about 20-30 minutes. Candidates are normally informed within a few days of the interview if they have been offered a funded studentship. If you are offered a studentship, you are more than welcome to come and visit the department and group research facilities and meet with our current STFC students and staff. 

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact. We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status.

We also support applications from those returning from a career break or other roles. We consider offering flexible study arrangements (including part-time: 50%, 60% or 80%, depending on the project/funder).

All appointments are made on merit.

Funding Notes

Funding will cover UK tuition fee and stipend at current UKRI standard rate for a September 2023 start. The University of Manchester aims to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK. We are able to offer a limited number of scholarships that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.


• Borovička, J., Spurný, P., & Brown, P. (2015). Small near-Earth asteroids as a source of meteorites. Asteroids IV, 257.
• Granvik, M., & Brown, P. (2018). Identification of meteorite source regions in the Solar System. Icarus, 311, 271-287.
• Colas, F., Zanda, B., Bouley, S., Jeanne, S., Malgoyre, A., Birlan, M., et al. (2020). FRIPON: a worldwide network to track incoming meteoroids. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 644, A53.
• Vida, D., Šegon, D., Gural, P. S., Brown, P. G., McIntyre, M. J., Dijkema, T. J., ... & Zubović, D. (2021). The Global Meteor Network–Methodology and first results. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 506(4), 5046-5074.
• Rowe J. Observing & recovering the Winchcombe meteorite (2021) British Astronomical Journal, 134–136
• Borovička, J., Spurný, P., & Shrbený, L. (2020). Two strengths of ordinary chondritic meteoroids as derived from their atmospheric fragmentation modeling. The Astronomical Journal, 160(1), 42.
• Lyytinen, E., & Gritsevich, M. (2016). Implications of the atmospheric density profile in the processing of fireball observations. Planetary and Space Science, 120, 35-42.

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