Terrestrial Planet Formation
Using computer models, I investigate the formation of terrestrial planets around the Sun and other Sun-like stars, around low mass M stars, around stars with different giant or stellar companions. My models can help determine where Earth-like planets can form and remain stable for billions of years. By tracking fragmentation during the late stages of planet formation, I can also quantify the abundance of water Earth-like planets can accrete in these various regimes, and determine the frequency of giant impacts onto these planets that could strip atmospheres and oceans and therefore be detrimental to habitability.
More than 70% of stars in our galaxy are M dwarfs, more than half of all main-sequence stars have a stellar companion, and the occurrence rate of Jupiter-analogs around Sun-like stars is thought to be low (<10%). Studying whether Earth-like planets can form and be habitable in these three regimes therefore has big implications for the abundance of habitable planets in our galaxy. My research aims to support target selection for NASA’s future space missions by predicting the best places to look for potentially habitable planets and signs of extraterrestrial life.