Image credit: Sumita Jayaraman/Nature

Solar System Dynamics

Three faculty in the Astronomy and Physics departments have active programs in the area of solar system science. One theme of this research is the dynamical evolution of the solar system with particular emphasis on the dynamics of the small bodies in the solar system (asteroids and Kuiper belt objects), and the dynamics of the dust particles that are generated by the collisional evolution of the asteroidal and cometary populations. The work is both theoretical and numerical and is aimed at interpreting observations in the infrared of the interplanetary dust complex that have recently returned by the IRAS and COBE spacecraft. The department also houses a microwave analog light scattering facility for testing theories of how light is scattered by small, non-spherical dust particles. All of this work has application to the study of debris disks around young, nearby stars in which planets have formed or are still forming. Work in the physics department is concerned with the structure and the dynamics of the thin gaseous envelopes that surround most of the planetary bodies in our solar system and uses theoretical and numerical methods to interpret images of planetary atmospheres returned by the Voyager and Cassini spacecraft.

Faculty Research

Solar system dynamics, zodiacal cloud structure, small body and interplanetary dust particle dynamics, debris disk modeling, numerical simulations. The structure and dynamics of the thin gaseous envelopes that surround giant planets.

Stanley Dermott

Katia Matcheva