Hi, I’m currently an astrophysics PhD student looking to gain some insight into how planetary systems form and evolve over time by studying the obliquity of hard to observe systems.
I grew up in the beautiful city of Newcastle where I obtained a degree in Chemical Engineering before completing my first doctorate at UNSW in the field of Supercritical Fluids. Following this I worked in a number of academic positions (UNSW, Delft University of Technology, Newcastle University) and industrial settings (Newcastle Steel works and BHP Wire products). Before turning my attention to the stars I had the good fortune to work in a wide variety of fields including high pressure thermodynamics, biological corrosion, crystallisation, landscape evolution as well as studying the transport of soil, moisture and carbon throughout Australian semi-arid catchments.
In my spare time I cook, tend to my veggie garden, read copious Sci-Fi, try to stop my kids from injuring themselves and occasionally teach science to primary school students through my company – Yellow Rocket.
Until the first exoplanet discovery, it was widely believed that the distribution of planets within a planetary system would reflect what we see in our own Solar System: a number of rocky planets orbiting close to the host star with a collection of gas/ice giants further out near what is known as the ‘snow-line’, all orbiting in the one plane aligned more or less with the equator. Over the last 30 years however the search for exoplanets has turned up a bewildering range of planet sizes, types and orbital geometries, many of which are not seen in our Solar System. Among these discoveries are ‘Hot Jupiters’, orbiting extremely close to their host star, sometimes on orbits which are totally misaligned with respect to the rotation of the host star.
In my project I will be determining the spin-orbit misalignment of a number of exoplanets types for which we have little data (mainly young, small and/or those orbiting a little further out from their stars). The data obtained will go some way to helping to determine the nature of the processes which drive these planets from their place of birth to the neighbourhood of their host stars.
- Exoplanet Characterisation
- Planetary System Formation
Dr Wells’ publications can be viewed via the Google Scholar icon