Credit: Clare College Cambridge and Julia Hedgecoe
Professor Cathie Clarke FRS
Cathie Clarke is Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Clare College Cambridge. She studies the formation of star clusters, binary stars and protoplanetary discs, in particular focusing on how protoplanetary discs are disrupted by their environment, either through tidal encounters with other stars in crowded regions or due to the intense radiation fields from young stars.
She has made major contributions to developing the theory of photoevaporation, where heating of protoplanetary discs by ultraviolet/X-ray radiation 'boils off' dust and gas in a thermally driven wind. She has notably derived an analytic solution for the wind’s topology and kinematics, which allows ready comparison between model predictions and high resolution observations of atomic emission lines and entrained dust flowing from the disc. Phenomenological planet formation models now routinely include photoevaporation prescriptions to model how winds deplete the reservoir of gas and dust available for planet formation. In 2017 she was awarded the Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society for her work developing the theory and observational diagnostics of the photoevaporation process.
Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics, Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics, Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge