My main interests are the formation and evolution of stars and planets.
I work on the boundary between observations and theory, using observations
to test theories and using theories to make testable predictions.
Pluto's Undiscovered Satellites
In 2015, NASA's New Horizons
mission will visit the Pluto-Charon binary planet
four smaller satellites (Nix, Hydra, P4, and P5) orbit the binary. Our computer simulations demonstrate that
the known moons can form in a disk of debris surrounding Pluto-Charon. These simulations predict an ensemble
of smaller satellites beyond the orbit of Hydra. Depending on the source of this debris, the satellites might
orbit within a disk of debris.
Now almost 4.5 billion years old, the Solar System is home to an amazing
variety of gaseous, icy, and rocky planets. Recent discoveries of 400+
planetary systems show a rich diversity of exosolar Jupiters, super-Earths,
and dusty debris. Surprisingly, planets grow by a gradual accumulation of
dust and rocks, just like the dust bunnies under your bed. I simulate this
process on a parallel computer and use these results to understand the
origin of our and other planetary systems.