Current Research Interests
My research is in the area of hypervelocity impacts, which are ubiquitous throughout the Solar System. My main areas of interest are:
1) Shock synthesis of organics. During impacts at hypervelocities (>1 km/sec), the impacting materials are subject to very high temperature and pressures. Under these extreme conditions molecules can be broken in constituent atoms, and then can recombine into more complex forms (i.e simple ices can form amino acids). This process thereby gives a route for the formation of pre-biotic molecules necessary for life.
2) Analysis of impact light flashes. Impacts of large (> 1m) objects onto the lunar surface result in a very bright impact flash that can be observed with a moderately sized telescope. One of our main interests is attempting to do spectroscopy of these flashes to gain insight into the impacting body’s composition and velocity. Currently we are doing shots in the light gas gun at Kent to mimic these impacts (albeit at a much smaller scale) to understand the dynamics of the flash.