Laura Buchanan

Astrophysics PhD Student at Queen's University Belfast

In order to understand the origins of our Solar System it is important to study the bodies contained within the Kuiper Belt. The Kuiper Belt is made up of a sea of icy planetesimals, the remaining relics of planet-forming bodies that failed to evolve into a planet beyond Neptune. By studying their surfaces using different colour filters we can distinguish a range of differing surface colours, and so differing surface compositions.

For my work I am investigating where in the early Solar System these different surface compositions may have formed. I’m doing this by inserting colour distributions into a model of the primordial Kuiper belt, and then seeing where these objects end up in the modern day Kuiper belt. I can then compare these modelled Kuiper belt colours with the surface colours that have been observed within the Kuiper belt by the Colours of the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (Col-OSSOS), and so get an idea of the primordial Kuiper belt colours.


Before my PhD, I spent 4 years studying for an MSci in Physics with Astrophysics at Queen’s University Belfast. For my Masters project I investigated the behaviour of magnetoacoustic waves in the chromosphere around sunspots on the Sun. I then moved onto studying the compositions of objects within the Kuiper belt for my PhD at Queen’s, which I started in October 2019. I also enjoy participating in outreach activities, such as volunteering at the NI Science Festival and the Our Place in Space exhibition.


L. E. Buchanan, M. E. Schwamb, W. C. Fraser, M. T. Bannister, M. Marsset, R. E. Pike, D. Nesvorný, J. J. Kavelaars, S. D. Benecchi, M. J. Lehner, S-Y Wang, N. Peixinho, K. Volk, M. Alexandersen, Y-T Chen, B. Gladman, S. Gwyn, & J-M Petit, 2022, Col-OSSOS: Probing Ice Line/Color Transitions within the Kuiper Belt's Progenitor Populations, PSJ, 3, 9

G. Fedorets, M. Micheli, R. Jedicke, S. P. Naidu, Shantanu, D. Farnocchia, M. Granvik, N. Moskovitz, M. E. Schwamb, R. Weryk, K. Wierzchoś, E. Christensen, T. Pruyne, W. F. Bottke, Q. Ye, R. Wainscoat, M. Devogèle, L. E. Buchanan, A. A. Djupvik, D. M. Faes, D. R. Föhring, J. Roediger, T. Seccull, & A. B. Smith, 2020, Establishing Earth's Minimoon Population through Characterization of Asteroid 2020 CD3, AJ, 160, 277

D. Nesvorný, D. Vokrouhlický, M. Alexandersen, M. T. Bannister L. E. Buchanan, Y-T Chen, B. J. Gladman, S. D. J. Gwyn, J. J. Kavelaars, J-M Petit, M. E. Schwamb, & K. Volk, 2020, OSSOS XX: The Meaning of Kuiper Belt Colors, AJ, 160, 46

Research Interests

  • Kuiper belt object compositions.
  • Solar System formation.
  • Observational astronomy.


  • Laboratory demonstrator for Level 2 Undergraduate Labs (2019-21)
  • Demonstrating physics experiments with school students (2019-22)