PhD thesis projects offered by the APG

The scientific topics covered by the Planetary Atmospheric Group (APG) cover almost all areas of planetary atmospheres.  Depending on the qualification and interests of the applicant(s) the PhD project(s) would either focus on (1) the data acquisition and data analysis of atmospheres of planets and their moons,  (2) the improvement or development of radiative transfer codes, models and simulations for the analysis of the data, (3) the development of sophisticated instrumentation.

Here a list of some general research topics offered, particular research directions are available:

Solar system research with Herschel, SOFIA and ground-based submillimetre telescopes

Contact: Miriam Rengel, Christopher Jarchow, Paul Hartogh

The Herschel Space Observatory (Herschel) is a far-infrared and submillimetre observation facility of the European Space Agency which has been launched on 14 May 2009. The operational phase of the Herschel mission came to an end on 29th April 2013. The MPS as part of the instrument teams plays a leading role in using Herschel for solar system investigations. Specific topics covered by our programmes concern:

  • the detection, origin and evolution of water in the atmospheres of the outer planets, Titan, Enceladus and Ganymede
  • the general circulation of planetary atmospheres with focus on Mars, Jupiter and warm Giant exoplanets
  • composition of atmospheres of planets and moons exhibing diversity of molecules
  • the thermal-physical characterization of Trans-neptunian objects

Observations carried out with the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), and ground-based submillimetre facilities (e.g. Atacama Large Millimeter Array, Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment, IRAM 30m telescope, Submillimeter Telescope, etc.) will address complementary and further scientific topics including the atmosphere of Venus and its dynamics.

Data analysis and modeling: Modeling the spectral emission of features of planetary atmospheres, studyng effects of signal processing for spectrometric planetary data analysis, and studyng the physics of tenous atmospheres

Contact: Miriam Rengel

By using line-by-line radiative transfer codes and forward modeling and inversion techniques we infer the abundances of the trace constituents. The student will improve the models, fitting techniques, and study the effects of algorithms for estimating instrumental errors. The final goal is searching for weak signatures in the spectra, and better constraints abundances.

Alternatively the student will study the physics of tenous atmospheres and search of cold dust by applying a radiative transfer model of a small sample of Transneptunian objects.

Ground-based observation of the Earth atmosphere in the millimeter wave range

Contact: Paul Hartogh, Christopher Jarchow

The wavelengths range of 10 to 1 mm is called millimeter wave range. It is well suited for observation of the composition and physical parameters of planetary atmospheres, including the middle atmosphere (between 15 and 85 km altitude) of Earth, because the Doppler broadening of the spectral emissions of gas molecules is small compared to their pressure broadening, meaning that vertical profiles can be derived from spectral line shapes determined by ground-based observations. MPS participates in two atmospheric observatories on the highest German mountain (Zugspitze) and near the city of Andenes north of the polar circle. Derived from such ground-based millimeter wave observations, we investigated interesting atmospheric features like the analysis of sporadic ozone decrease events in the stratopause, the relationship of water vapor and noctilucent clouds, the influence of the solar cycle on water vapor, the tidal behavior of mesospheric water vapour, the detection of rocket exhaust plumes or long-term ozone trends. New topics, related to new, cutting edge observational capabilities will focus on mass dependent and mass independent fractionation of oxygen isotopes (not only important for the Earth atmosphere) and the detection of nitric oxide and its relationship to short term solar variability and ozone destruction. Tasks of the thesis will include to work with / improve the existing instrumentation, traveling to the observatories and analysis and interpretation of the observations.

General circulation modeling of planetary atmospheres

Contact: Alexander Medvedev, Paul Hartogh

We develop and employ comprehensive numerical models to understand complex interactions of various physical and dynamical processes in planetary atmospheres. In particular, our research is focused on global circulation and coupling between the troposphere, middle atmosphere and thermosphere of terrestrial-like (Mars) and gas giant (Jupiter, Saturn) planets. One thesis project will be related to studying the role of atmospheric waves in forcing the circulation and facilitating the gas escape in the upper atmosphere of Mars. It will involve numerical simulations with the Mars general circulation model (GCM) and observational data from the ongoing MAVEN mission. Another project is related to the water cycle of the martian atmosphere and relates to data we got from the Herschel Space Observatory. The main aim of a third project is to understand the circulation of the Jovian stratosphere, and to explain such phenomena as the Quasi-quadrennial oscillation and the observed transport of species. This research, which is in synergy with the preparation to the JUICE mission to Jupiter, will involve further development and use of the Gas Giant GCM.

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