Last fall, PVL MSc Giang spent a productive term with Raymond Pierrehumbert's group at Oxford. In this post, he reflects on his experience from the perspective of a little distance as he looks forward to summing up his MSc work and assesses PhD opportunities. Above (planetary photojournal image PIA01111), a view of one of Io's forced atmospheric components - sodium - which contrasts with the volcanic emission and condensation of sulfur compounds that Giang modelled.
By Tue Giang Nguyen
While I was interning at the University of Oxford, I was involved in atmospheric modelling projects for exoplanets and grateful for working with prominent scientists in my field. As I returned home from the UK, I had briefly forgotten what Canadian winter was like and was promptly reminded as I stepped outside of the airport. Now that I have returned to York University, it is time to reminisce about the things I learned during my short 3-months stay at Oxford.
The atmospheric model I worked with started by recreating Andrew Ingersoll’s 1985 work on modelling the wind flow on Io. Useful assumptions, some more justified than the others, such as making sure the Ionian atmosphere is hydrostatically bound and neglecting Io’s rotation allowed for a simple one-dimensional model of the shallow wave equation. The gist of the dynamics in the model is that sulfur dioxide, abundant on Io’s surface, would sublimate or evaporate when illuminated by the Sun. The sublimated sulfur dioxide would then flow onto the nightside where it is much colder and the atmosphere would condense back onto the surface. This insight on thin and condensable atmospheres is useful for exoplanet research where tidally locked rocky planets would evaporate or sublimate volatiles on the dayside where they would condense on the colder nightside.