Research in Planetary Sciences


Both theoretical and observational planetary science are major research focus areas at UCSC, involving faculty from both the Astrophysics and Earth Science Departments. Much of this research is supported through the Center for the Origin and Dynamical Evolution of Planets, a part of the UCSC branch of the Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics.

Doug Lin and his collaborators have been studying grain growth in gas orbiting recently formed stars and comparing their predictions with observations of sharp edges and gaps in extrasolar debris disks. Doug has followed the accumulation and growth of planetesimals to
understand the formation of Earth-like planets and the accumulation of gas onto giant planets. Lin, Greg Laughlin, Jonathan Fortney, and others have studied the structure and atmospheres of extrasolar planets, such as the transiting planet HD209458. In addition to learning about the known extrasolar planets, these studies are a key part of the planning for future NASA missions.

Steve Vogt's expertise in designing and constructing state of the art spectrographs — such as the high resolution spectrometer (HIRES) at Keck — has been particularly valuable to UCSC and in particular to the University of California planet search team that has discovered well over 100 extra-solar planets. The next phase of this effort will be spearheaded by the new 2.4-m Automated Planet Finder (APF) telescope at Lick Observatory. With its high resolution, temperature-compensated echelle spectrograph, the APF will automatically search for radial velocity wobbles in distant stars, indicating the presence of orbiting planets.

One major goal of the adaptive optics research at UCSC is to improve the detection of planets around other stars. Development work on so-called extreme adaptive optics promises to one day allow the direct imaging of many planets beyond our solar system.

Research interests of Earth Sciences faculty include asteroid-planet impacts in the Solar System (Erik Asphaug) and computational models of the growth and evolution of solar and terrestrial magnetic fields (Gary Glatzmaier).

Research Centers

Research Groups

Latest News

Thirty-Meter Telescope focuses on two candidate sites

Doug Lin has a featured article in the May 2008 Scientific American entitled "The Chaotic Genesis of Planets." Read more...