Job advertisement PhD Position in 'Modelling, detection and characterization of tidally heated exomoons'

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European Geosciences Union

PhD Position in 'Modelling, detection and characterization of tidally heated exomoons'

PhD Position in 'Modelling, detection and characterization of tidally heated exomoons'


Leiden Observatory / Delft University of Technology

The position well supervised jointly by Leiden Observatory and Delft University of Technology. Formally, the Ph.D. student will be employed full-time at Leiden Observatory.

Leiden Observatory

Leiden Observatory (“Sterrewacht Leiden”), founded in 1633, is the oldest university astronomy department in the world with a distinguished history. The work of famous astronomers such as De Sitter, Hertzsprung, Oort, Blaauw, and Van de Hulst made Leiden an internationally renowned center of astronomical research.

PhD students from Leiden succeed exceptionally well on the international job market. One of the most prestigious fellowships in world astronomy is NASA’s Hubble fellowship. More astronomers with a doctoral degree from Leiden have won Hubble fellowships than from any other university outside the USA. Many of the faculty members, PhD students, and undergraduates have an international background. English is the common language.

TU Delft – Aerospace Engineering Faculty

The faculty of Aerospace Engineering at Delft University of Technology is one of the world’s largest faculties devoted entirely to aerospace engineering. In the Netherlands it is the only research and education institute directly related to the aerospace engineering sector. It covers the whole spectrum of aerospace engineering subjects. The Department of Space Engineering provides premier European education and research in space engineering. The Department consists of two research groups: Astrodynamics and Space Missions, and Space Systems Engineering. It runs an integrated research programme comprising miniaturisation, distributed space systems, mission analysis and orbits, space propulsion, ascent and re-entry, and planetary exploration.

The Department operates a cleanroom facility for the design, integration, and verification of satellite assemblies up to entire satellites. The Astrodynamics and Space Missions (A&S) section is dedicated to the modelling and analysis of satellite orbits, planetary missions and their many planetary applications.


Leiden / Delft, Netherlands


Relevant division
Planetary and Solar System Sciences (PS)

Full time

Student / Graduate / Internship

33424 - 42719 € / Year, Gross annual salary (incl. holiday allowance and end-of-year bonus)

Preferred education

Application deadline
Open until the position is filled

30 June 2020

Job description

The aim of this project is to observe exomoons directly in far-infrared wavelengths. Specifically, the project will focus on the detectability of Tidally Heated ExoMoons (THEMs), and modelling their detectability and interiors. The aim of these models is twofold: firstly to guide the selection of promising target planets that may harbour detectable exomoons, and secondly to allow for the physical interpretation of upcoming detection of such exomoons. The project will include both the application and extension of existing models, as well as the setup, planning and analysis of astronomical observations.

This project is part of the NWO Planetary and Exoplanetary Science (PEPSci) programme and ventures on the boundary of astronomy and geosciences. We offer a funded PhD position for 4 years to be jointly supervised by Dr. Matthew Kenworthy (Leiden Observatory) and Dr. Dominic Dirkx (TU Delft) on the topic of ‘Modelling, detection and characterization of tidally heated exomoons’. As this is a joint project, you will be a member of two dynamic and interdisciplinary research groups located at the Leiden Observatory (LO) and TU Delft (TUD). You will also join the NWO PEPSci network together with the PhD students from other projects within the network.

You will develop thermal(-orbital) models of icy and rocky exomoons undergoing tidal heating at TUD, and plan and execute observational programmes with ground and space-based telescopes at LO. The candidate will build on the models for planetary satellite interiors and evolution that have been developed over the past decade at TUD, transitioning over the 4 years to carrying out observational programmes searching for tidally heated exomoons around the nearest exoplanet systems. By joining this project, you will be helping to bridge the fields of solar system planetary geosciences and exoplanetary sciences. You will analyse and interpret the results, and report your results in peer-reviewed journals, at international conferences and you will be part of a stimulating and challenging environment.

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