Research Fellows Directory
Dr Grant Kennedy
University of Cambridge
Are we alone in our Galaxy? Do other stars even have habitable planets, and if so, are they anything like the Earth? Answering such questions is a major long-term goal of many astronomers, but like any large problem it can be broken into manageable pieces. I study the dusty belts of asteroids and comets that orbit other stars, known as "debris disks". The main components of the Solar System's debris disk are the Asteroid and Edgeworth-Kuiper belts (the latter of which Pluto is a member, and directly related to it's demotion from planet status). These disks are a sensitive tracer of the past and present state of planetary systems, so provide unique information that will help answer these questions.
My work on debris disks is wide ranging, from their observation using space and ground-based telescopes, modelling and interpretation of the images obtained, and the theoretical study of how they grind themselves down in catastrophic collisions. I am particularly excited about the future of my work on extra-Solar versions of our Zodiacal cloud; these dusty exo-Zodi are particularly interesting because they reside in the so-called "habitable zones" of other stars, where we expect planets like our Earth to reside. We need to understand exo-Zodi both as a tracer of how Earth-like planets form around other stars, but also because the dust could make detecting other Earth-like planets very difficult.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)