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Using a global 3-D planetary model to study the atmosphere of the early Earth as an analogue for Earth-like exoplanets

Project Description

Up until a few decades ago we were limited to studying planets within our solar system. Technological advances now allow us to observe extrasolar planets (exoplanets) that orbit stars other than the Sun. To date more than three thousand exoplanets have been confirmed with a longer list of candidates that await confirmation. Only a small number of these are considered potentially habitable.

Why are these important discoveries in the context of Earth sciences? The size of detected exoplanets and the distance from their host stars challenge our understanding of planetary formation that has until recently been exclusively derived from solar system planets. Detection of exoplanets therefore has potential implications for our current understanding of the formation of Earth and its atmosphere. We are also beginning to detect Earth analogues (planets similar to Earth) that potentially represent the surface and atmospheric environments of Phanerozoic Earth. This period on Earth is associated with the emergence of complex multicellular organisms that eventually changed the chemical composition of the global atmosphere. Consequently, studying exoplanets offers us an opportunity to better understand the evolution of the early Earth.

There are a number of ambitious and overarching research questions that could each be the focus of the PhD project, depending on the qualifications of the successful applicant:
1) Given sparse paleo constraints, what does the 3-D physical and chemical environment look like on Phanerozoic Earth?
2) Can these insights into 3-D space-time variations improve our ability to interpret upcoming spectrally-resolved telescopic observations of exoplanetary atmospheres?

You will closely relate your model studies to data that will be delivered by the ESA Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey (ARIEL) space telescope that will be launched in 2028, but the project will use real data from the James Webb Space Telescope when they become available.

For further information:

Funding Notes

E4 DTP studentships are fully-funded for a minimum of 3.5 years. They include:

* Stipend based on RCUK minima (currently £15,009 for 2019/2020)
* Fees (Home/EU Fees)
* Research Costs (Standard Research Costs plus, depending on the projects requirements, Additional Research Costs can also be allocated)

The stipend can be extended to up to another 5 months through our two optional schemes - see View Website.


* Rice, K., Origin of Elements and Formation of Solar System, Planets, and Exoplanets, Astrobiology: An Evolutionary Approach, CRC Press, 19-48, 2014.
* Proxima Centauri b discover paper: doi:10.1038/nature19106
* Overview of biosignatures: doi:10.1089/ast.2015.1404.
* ARIEL overview:
* Paper led by Edinburgh group about 3-D ozone distributions on a tidally locked exoplanet, under review at MNRAS:

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

FTE Category A staff submitted: 104.98

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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