Research

Our team work together to understand the diverse family of planetary climates. Using a suite of numerical tools in 1D, 2D and 3D, covering a range of complexities, our focus is understanding the key physical processes which control the climates of exoplanets, and how these processes behave in different planetary environments. Our work is interdisciplinary, joining researchers from Astrophysics, with Earth System Science, and collaborating closely with the Met Office. Our modeling framework includes the Unified Model (UM) of the Met Office, with the associated radative transfer code SOCRATES, as well as chemical equilibrium and kinetics codes, and land-surface models. We also use the ATMO code, whose development is lead by Pascal Tremblin as is detailed at (*A wiki is being setup for ATMO and a link will feature here soon*).

Members

Dr. Nathan Mayne

Nathan was responsible for first adapting the Met Office model to exoplanet atmospheres, with James Manners, Chris Smith and David Amundsen. Nathan is an expert in exoplanet climates, focusing on dynamics, and is responsible for the general scientific management of the group alongside Isabelle Baraffe, Éric Hébrard, Hugo Lambert, James Manners and Ian Boutle.

Dr. Ian Boutle

Ian is an atmospheric scientist with primary interests in clouds and turbulence. Working from the Met Office and University of Exeter, Ian is interested in the climate and habitability of Earth-like exoplanets, and the effect of clouds on hot-Jupiter atmospheres.

Dr. James Manners

James specialises in the modelling of radiative transfer in planetary atmospheres, working both from the Met Office and the Exoplanet group at Exeter University. He is the lead developer for adaptations to the Met Office model involving radiative transfer, orbital configurations, and simulated observations for exoplanet atmospheres.

Dr. Éric Hébrard

Expert in chemical modelling of planetary atmospheres, Eric has been studying very different environments, covering a broad range of physical and chemical conditions, from the deep chill of our outer Solar System through the hazy skies of our own early Earth to the blaze of the most recently discovered hot Jupiters. In Exeter, he is involved in the development and improvement of multidimensional chemical models of planetary atmospheres. Noticing the overlap of conditions (pressure, temperature, composition) between the atmospheres of hot Jupiters and car engines, he has contributed to the release of chemical models which successful bridges applied combustion and astrophysics. He has also contributed to the measurement of temperature-dependent VUV absorption cross sections, which are rare but essential data to model photochemical processes in atmospheric models. Finally, he has been responsible these past few years for a new and original strategy for evaluating and insuring both the accuracy and precision of models of these sometimes peculiar planetary atmospheres. It brings new insights into the way chemical models of planetary atmospheres can - and must! - be used.

Dr. Hugo Lambert

Hugo is an Earth atmospheric scientist with expertise in clouds and the hydrological cycle. He is interested in understanding the atmospheres and climates of terrestrial exoplanets using a range of simple and complex models.

Dr. Stefan Lines

Stefan uses sophisticated coupled 3D cloud-climate models to understand cloud formation, composition and evolution in hot-Jupiter atmospheres. Data from these models can be used to make comparisons with the limited observations of potentially cloudy and/or hazy atmospheres discovered to date.

Dr. Ben Drummond

Ben investigates the atmospheric composition of hydrogen dominated gas giant exoplanets. Understanding the gas phase chemistry is crucial in determining the dynamical and thermal structure of the atmosphere as the composition determines the opacity, mean molecular weight and heat capacity. In addition, to predict the chemical properties of the clouds that may form in such atmospheres we must first understand the chemical makeup of the gas from which those cloud particles condense. In particular, Ben focuses on improving the consistency between the tightly-coupled dynamical, radiative and chemical processes in both 1D and 3D atmosphere models. This has led to the development of a new set of flexible chemistry routines within the Met Office Unified Model, including a chemical equilibrium scheme, a chemical relaxation scheme and a chemical kinetics scheme. At the moment, these new schemes are being applied to study the effect of wind-driven advection on the carbon chemistry (CH4 and CO) of hot Jupiter atmospheres.

Jayesh Goyal

Jayesh develops forward models to interpret observations of exoplanet atmospheres. He primarily focuses on developing and improving radiative transfer computations in the model, along with the generation of opacity database. He has developed a grid of forward model transmission spectra and equilibrium chemistry for a range of exoplanets, which can be used to plan observations using HST, JWST and various other telescopes, along with interpreting existing datasets.

Sally Blumenthal

Sally is working with Éric Hébrard on the kinetic and photochemical chemistry of giant planet atmospheres. More specifically, she is currently working on the implementation of haze into ATMO. Sally is also interested in high temperature spectroscopy and its role in interpreting observations from the upcoming JWST mission.

Prof. Isabelle Baraffe

Isabelle Baraffe is Professor of Astrophysics at Exeter. Her expertise is in planetary internal structure and atmosphere physics and in the development of evolutionary models for exoplanets.

Mark Phillips

Working with Isabelle Baraffe, Mark is developing a grid of brown dwarf atmospheres using the ATMO code. This grid will be used to investigate how thermo-chemical instabilities arising from dis-equilibrium chemistry may shape the spectral evolution of brown dwarfs.

Paul Palmer

Paul is an atmospheric physicist who is heading up the adaptation of the UKCA atmospheric chemistry for exoplanet modeling with the UM, at the University of Edinburgh. His two key science questions are: 1) How does atmospheric composition affect the habitability of Earth-like exoplanets? 2) How does orbital configuration affect the atmospheric composition of Earth-like planets? URLs: www.palmergroup.org and www.exoplanets.ed.ac.uk.

Former Members

Dr. David Skalid Amundsen, who adapted the SOCRATES radiative transfer code to high temperature regimes, with James Manners. Dr. Wolfgang Hayek, who wrote the original version of the ATMO radiative transfer code.

Papers

Outreach

Many of our group members are passionate about communicating the science and research we do to the wider public, and some examples are below.

We are working with the VFX company Engine House and At Bristol to produce a series of scientifically informed animations of exoplanet environments, and a mini-documentary style video. Below are the 4K and 8K 360 degree animations, and links to the documentary. If you would like to use these please credit Engine-House, We The Curious (formerly At-Bristol), the University of Exeter, Nathan Mayne and additional members featured in the link descriptions.

Animations without audio:

Starfield, 4K
Young Giant planet in a debris disc, 4K
Evaporating hot Jupiter, 4K
At ~1mbar within the atmosphere of a hot Jupiter, 4K
A Super-Earth, waterworld, 4K
55-Cancri e, lava planet, 4K
Trappist-1 e, habitable planet? 4K

Animations with audio:

Starfield, 4K
Young Giant planet in a debris disc, 4K
Evaporating hot Jupiter, 4K
At ~1mbar within the atmosphere of a hot Jupiter, 4K
A Super-Earth, waterworld, 4K
55-Cancri e, lava planet, 4K
Trappist-1 e, habitable planet? 4K

A full mini-documentary, Listen to UoE scientists Elisabeth Matthews, Dr. David Sing, Dr. Stefan Lines, Dr. Nathan Mayne and Jessica Spake talk about what it would be like to visit these exotic worlds, and explore them in 4K and 3D:

Additionally, Nathan Mayne and David Sing, working with Phil Gurr created a series of videos explaining concepts, from the world of exoplanet research, andthese are available on the links below:

"What is an exoplanet?"
"How do we find exoplanets?"
"What can observations tell us about exoplanets?"
"How can we use models to explore exoplanets?"
"How to determine if exoplanets might host life."

Finally, Nathan Mayne recently gave a TED talk as part of the "Time and Tide" event in Truro you can view this here.


Dr. Nathan Mayne

I am a Senior Lecturer working at the University of Exeter within the Astrophysics Group. I also oversee the undergraduate admissions and the first year of our course (if you want to apply to study Physics here drop us an email: ug-ad-phys@exeter.ac.uk)

Research:

My group and I are working to try and understand the bewildering diversity of exoplanets that have been discovered over the recent decades. The discovery of planets outside our own solar system marked a huge step forward towards answering the question of whether we are alone in the galaxy or universe! Our research is aimed at contributing to this huge question, but also to connect what we learn from exoplanets with studies of our own changing climate here on Earth through working with the UK Met Office. Of course, the diversity of exoplanets has also presented a huge number of challenges to our understanding of how planets form and evolve, which we get to explore along the way!

My research goals are summarised in a recent TEDx talk I gave about "Searching for Life in distant planetary systems" I also wrote an aritcle for "the conversation" titled: "How looking into space can help our understanding of climate change on Earth". The department also has a Physics@Exeter youtube channel (setup by Natalie Whitehead), through which you can learn more about the departments teaching and research. Finally, I regularly supervise PhD projects within my field of research, which are generally advertised on our group pages.

About Me:

I grew up in Camborne in Cornwall on a small farm, and much of my youth was spent surfing, playing sport or finding interesting ways to injure myself. At school I always enjoyed complex problems, although I spent most of my early life trying to deny this or cover it up!

I never owned a telescope and had no idea what a degree or PhD really was, but I did have a lot of books about space and space exploration. Strangely, I never wanted to be an astronaut, or work out how the rockets worked. However, I was always fascinated at how a huge range of environments across our universe could be realised maintaining the same underlying principles-Physics! Of course, I really would not have phrased it like that back then, probably more like: hmm planets and stars are cool. I went to school at Pool School and Community College, and completed my A-levels there too, before taking a year out working in a DIY store and travelling within Europe.

At University, in Exeter, I really started to realise (towards the end of the course) that I was in fact a whole and actual geek. It took a while to come to terms with, but I gradually realised the potential for Physics, and astrophysics in particular to provide a steady stream of unsolved, hugely complicated problems! I completed an Mphys degree specialising in Surface Plasmon Polariton working with Prof. B Barnes, then took at year out working for 6 months at the University of Exeter Sports Park then travelling for the remainder of the year to Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. After this I completed a PhD on stellar ages with Prof. T. Naylor, before working with Prof. T. Harries on radiative transfer. Finally, I found a home working on planetary atmospheres with Prof. I Baraffe, before becoming a lecturer and leading my own group in this field.

Wiki

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