Dr Philip J Carter

I have moved to UC Davis


My research focuses on numerical simulations of planet formation. I am interested in collisions of planetesimals and protoplanets, and the cumulative effect collisions can have on the compositions of growing planets. Using a state-of-the-art collision model that includes erosion and fragmentation, we can track the chemical composition of accreting rocky planets.
I am also interested in the final fates of planetary systems, long after their host star has died and left behind a white dwarf. Polluted white dwarfs appear to accrete remnant planetary material, but it is unclear how this material is delivered. more

Planet Collisions
Image: Gemini Observatory/AURA/Lynette Cook.


I am a postdoctoal scholar in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of California Davis, where I carry out research related to planetary collisions. Previously I was a postdoc in the School of Physics at the University of Bristol. My background is in Astrophysics, having gained my PhD in 2014 from the University of Warwick, where I carried out observational studies of ultra-compact accreting binaries.

Studying the moon
Image: STS.

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December 2017: Collisional stripping of planetary crusts
In this paper, published in EPSL, we explore the effects of collisions on the outer crust of planetesimals and planetary embryos. We find that crust is preferentially lost during collisions, and show that this can lead to changes in bulk composition of lithophile elements if reaccretion is inefficient.

Animations from this paper can be found here.

September 2017: Magnesium isotope evidence that accretional vapour loss shapes planetary compositions
In this paper by Hin et al., published in Nature, new measurements are presented that show Earth and other large planetary bodies have isotpically heavier magnesium compositions than primitive meteorites. We examine vapour loss from planetesimals as a consequence of collisions during accretion. Loss of significant mass of vapour from growing planetary embryos could explain the Earth's isotopically heavy Magnesium signature.
See also coverage from: The Washington Post, Space.com, The Independent.

October 2015: Compositional evolution during rocky protoplanet accretion
In this paper, published in ApJ, we explore the effects of collisional evolution on the compositions of planetesimals and embryos during the intermediate stages of planet formation. ADS link.

Animations from this paper can be found here.


Philip J Carter
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
University of California Davis
One Shields Avenue
CA 95616

pjcarter (at) ucdavis.edu

Movie of the month:

Disruption of a differentiated asteroid on an eccentric orbit around WD1145+017

WD debris disc