Dr Philip J Carter

University of Bristol


My research focuses on numerical simulations of planet formation. I am interested in collisions of planetesimals and protoplanets, and the cumulative effect collisions can have on the compositions of growing planets.
I am also interested in the final fates of planetary systems, long after their host star has died and left behind a white dwarf.
Find out more here.
Image: Gemini Observatory/AURA/Lynette Cook.

About Me

I am a computational planetary scientist and astrophysicist. I carry out research related to planetary collisions and planet growth. I am a senior research associate in the School of Physics at the University of Bristol.
Previously, I was a postdoc, and then project scientist, in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of California, Davis. My scientific background is in astrophysics, having obtained my PhD in 2014 from the University of Warwick, where I carried out observational studies of ultra-compact accreting binaries.


January 2022: Congratulations Dr Denman!
Dr Thomas Denman passed his viva in November and has now been awarded his PhD!

You can read about Dr Denman's work on collisions of Super-Earths at Explore Bristol Research.

January 2022: Gadget2-planetary
The planetary version of the SPH code Gadget2 is now available on GitHub!


August 2020: Colliding in the shadows of giants – Carter & Stewart (2020)
In this paper, available on arXiv and soon to be published in The Planetary Science Journal, we investigate planetesimal–planetesimal collisions during the growth and migration of giant planets. Gas giant migration induces large numbers of high velocity collisions between planetesimals, many of which can cause shock-vaporization of planetesimal materials.

More animations from this paper can be found here.

June 2020: Denman et al. (2020) – Atmosphere loss in planet–planet collisions
Thomas Denman, a grad student at the University of Bristol I co-advise, had his first first-author paper published! In this work we modeled the loss of atmosphere in collisions between mini-Neptune and super-Earth sized planets. We found that a single collision cannot remove all the atmosphere without also removing a significant fraction of the mantle.
Read the paper in MNRAS or download from arXiv.

More animations can be found here.

February 2020: JGR Planets cover
Our paper on energy budgets in giant impacts was chosen for the cover of the latest issue of JGR Planets!

January 2020: Are exoplanetesimals differentiated? – Bonsor et al. (2020)
Short answer: yes.
In this paper by Bonsor et al., available on arXiv and published in MNRAS, we compare calcium and iron abundances from a large sample of polluted white dwarfs with expected distributions from collisionally processed, differentiated planetesimals. We find that the data are best explained by 66–100% of white dwarfs having accreted the remains of differentiated bodies.

News archive

Movie of the week

Tidal disruption of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9

Studying the moon
Image: STS.

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