Research Interests & Highlights

I am interested in the evolution of a particular class of protoplanetary discs; self-gravitating discs which are young, massive and turbulent. My interests are driven by the following topics:

  • Planet migration in self-gravitating discs.
  • Impact of planet-disc interactions on the structure of protoplanetary discs.
  • The dust dynamics in protoplanetary discs.
  • Warped gravitationally unstable protoplanetary discs
  • Connecting simulations with observed disc features.

To answer these questions I use 3D SPH simulations to explore the evolution of self-gravitating protoplanetary discs. See below for more information of my recent work:

3rd February 2022
Warping Away Gravitational Instabilities in Protoplanetary Discs

We perform 3D SPH simulations of warped, non-coplanar gravitationally unstable discs to show that as the warp propagates through the self-gravitating disc, it heats up the disc rendering it gravitationally stable. Thus losing their spiral structure and appearing completely axisymmetric. In their youth, protoplanetary discs are expected to be massive and self-gravitating, which results in non-axisymmetric spiral structures. However recent observations of young protoplanetary discs with ALMA have revealed that discs with large-scale spiral structure are rarely observed in the midplane. Instead, axisymmetric discs with some also having ring & gap structures are more commonly observed. Our work involving warps, non-coplanar disc structures that are expected to commonly occur in young discs, potentially resolves this discrepancy between observations and theoretical predictions. We demonstrate that they are able to suppress the large-scale spiral structure of self-gravitating protoplanetary discs.

26th November 2020

Hiding Signatures of Gravitational Instability in Protoplanetary Discs with Planets

We carry out three dimensional SPH simulations to show that a migrating giant planet strongly suppresses the spiral structure in self-gravitating discs. We present mock ALMA continuum observations which show that in the absence of a planet, spiral arms due to gravitational instability are easily observed. Whereas in the presence of a giant planet, the spiral structures are suppressed by the migrating planet resulting in a largely axisymmetric disc with a ring and gap structure.Our modelling of the gas kinematics shows that the planet's presence could be inferred, for example, using optically thin 13C16O. Our results show that it is not necessary to limit the gas mass of discs by assuming high dust-to-gas mass ratios in order to explain a lack of spiral features that would otherwise be expected in high mass discs.

4th June 2020
Planet Migration in Self-Gravitating Discs: Survival of Planets

We carry out three-dimensional SPH simulations to study whether planets can survive in self-gravitating protoplanetary discs. The discs modelled here use a cooling prescription that mimics a real disc which is only gravitationally unstable in the outer regions. We do this by modelling the cooling using a simplified method such that the cooling time in the outer parts of the disc is shorter than in the inner regions, as expected in real discs. We find that both giant ( > MSat ) and low mass ( < MNep ) planets initially migrate inwards very rapidly, but are able to slow down in the inner gravitationally stable regions of the disc without needing to open up a gap. This is in contrast to previous studies where the cooling was modelled in a more simplified manner where regardless of mass, the planets were unable to slow down their inward migration. This shows the important effect the thermodynamics has on planet migration. In a broader context, these results show that planets that form in the early stages of the discs' evolution, when they are still quite massive and self-gravitating, can survive.