Recent Projects

Volatile delivery

Formation and distribution of extrasolar ocean worlds

Stochasticity during formation and the variety in exoplanet compositions suggest that the majority of rocky exoplanets are covered in global water layers – ocean worlds. In this project we demonstrate that variations in short-lived radionuclides in planetary systems – such as 26Al in the early Solar system – can prohibit this fate. By dehydrating water-rich planetesimals via outgassing, short-lived radionuclides desiccate forming terrestrial worlds and can generate planetary systems with balanced volatile abundances.
[Lichtenberg, Golabek, Burn, Meyer, Alibert, Gerya, Mordasini / under review]

Early surface environments

Direct imaging of protoplanetary collisions

We study the observational and statistical prospects to directly observe the radiative signature of surface magma oceans that result from collisions between protoplanets in exoplanetary systems, similar to the Moon-forming giant impact on early Earth. We devise and compare observational strategies for ground- and space-based observatories and constrain the most promising targets for future reconnaissance of magma ocean atmospheres.
[Bonati, Lichtenberg, Bower, Timpe, Quanz / in revision, A&A]

Asteroids and magma dynamics

Volcanism & core formation in planetesimals

We employ two-phase flow models of magma segregation to study chemical differentiation in rocky planetesimals. We show that interior magma oceans in planetesimals were prevalent in the early Solar system and that efficient magma segregation was focused to bodies forming at around 1 Myr after Calcium,Aluminum-rich inclusions. This suggests varying core formation regimes during the Solar protoplanetary disk stage, highlights the importance of partially molten planetesimal interiors, and extenuates the 'missing olivine' conundrum.
[Lichtenberg, Keller, Katz, Golabek, Gerya / under review, E&PSL]

Chondrites as building material of the planets?

Chondrule signatures constrain terrestrial planet accretion

Combining geochemical constraints from chondritic meteorites with interior evolution models of planetesimals, we connect the consequences of collisional interactions during terrestrial planet growth to the splashing model of chondrule formation. That allows us to derive constraints for the accretion dynamics of planets and reprocessing of planetary materials at the time of the solar protoplanetary disk: chondrites must originate from a source reservoir distinct from that of the terrestrial planets.
[Lichtenberg, Golabek, Dullemond, Schönbächler, Gerya, Meyer / Icarus, 2018]

Planet 9

A super-Earth exoplanet in the Solar system?

Using computer simulations of the Solar birth star formation environment we calculate the odds that Planet 9 – if it exists – was captured from outside of the Solar system in the birth star-forming environment of the young Sun. Cross-matching the capture probability with enrichment from short-lived radioisotopes – as constrained by meteoritic abundances – reveals that these chances are low.
[Parker, Lichtenberg, Quanz / MNRASL, 2017]

Science Communication

Comic exhibition

Expedition Solar System

A comic exhibition centered on Solar system and space exploration. Research projects are presented in comic format for the interested public and for use in classrooms. Runs until June 2019.



From 2014–2016 I was a monthly contributor to the popular Astronomy blog Astrobites (~200k readers/yr). Since then I am active in the Astrobites community in administrative and supportive roles, covering hiring of new authors, internal communication, public relations, and devising strategies for extension and future development of the Astrobites network.