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Research at St Andrews

Christiane Helling


Christiane Helling, habil
Postal address:
School of Physics & Astronomy
Physical Science Building
North Haugh
St Andrews
United Kingdom


Direct phone: +44 (0)1334 461666

Research overview


Ch Helling is the founding director of the St Andrews Centre for Exoplanet Science and a former ERC starting grant holder at the University of St Andrews.

Her main interest are modelling physics and chemistry in brown dwarf and planetary atmospheres. The understanding of exoplanet atmopsheres is hampered by cloud layers that block our views, and that are made of silicate-like materials rather than of water. Christiane Helling and Peter Woitke developed the equations that now allow to model the formation of cloud, and to predict their properties. This is a theoretical description of gas - solid/liquid phase transitions which includes nucleation, growth and evaporation, and the influence of relative motions between gas and dust on the growth process. Ch Helling's work has, for the first time, provided insight in the formation process of clouds in brown dwarfs as well as in details like grain compositions and size distribution, both essential for predicting and understanding observed spectra. 

With the ERC grant, Ch Helling's now included ionisation processes in ultra-cool atmosphere. This links very well with her work on cloud formation as it includes cloud and gas charge and discharge processes, the effects of lightning, the origin of radio and X-ray emission from such cool atmospheres. 

Ch Helling's work applies knowledge from other disciplines and developes it further for the extreme conditions encountered in astrophysical objects. She has a strong interest in interdiscipinary work.

Research group webpage





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