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Ice: Small and Near, Distant and Large. Understanding planet formation through observation of Solar-System minor bodies and extra-solar planets


This proposal is for a four year observational study on icy bodies in our Solar System and in systems around other stars. This will test planet formation theories, a key European astronomical research objective. The project will answer five questions essential to understanding the icy bodies that are the remnants of the planet formation process:
Q1: How do the surface properties of Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) vary?
Q2: What are the average bulk physical properties of cometary nuclei?
Q3: How does cometary activity vary throughout the Solar System?
Q4: What is the distribution of ice in the Solar System?
Q5: What is the distribution of icy planets around other stars?
The first four questions form the bulk of this proposal, and will be addressed by telescopic observations of all classes of Solar System minor body (asteroids, comets, KBOs). This will include a particular focus on the largest KBOs, the newly discovered population of Main Belt Comets, and on the target comets of spacecraft missions. To do this I will make use of novel techniques that I have pioneered, using new instruments at the European Southern Observatory, and other standard astronomical observations. The fifth question will be answered using the microlensing technique, as part of a large European led collaboration. In addition to contributing to the overall goal of studying the icy remnants of planet formation, the comet observations will also directly support the ESA Rosetta mission. This link with Rosetta will mean a continuing contract at the host institute after the IRG.

Call for proposal

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Hofgartenstrasse 8
80539 Munchen

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Activity type
Research Organisations
Administrative Contact
Andreas Poprawa (Mr.)
EU contribution
€ 100 000