Scott J. Kenyon (Senior Scientist, SAO)

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.


Plutos Undiscovered Satellites Pluto's Undiscovered Satellites
In 2015, NASA's New Horizons mission will visit the Pluto-Charon binary planet. Currently, 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.
Sedna Flyby Simulation Planet Formation
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.
Taurus Dark Clouds Star Formation
Stars form in cold dense clumps of dust and gas embedded in giant molecular clouds. Every young star has a surrounding disk capable of becoming a planetary system. My work involves studying the physical properties of young stars and their disks.
Symbiotic star image Symbiotic Stars
Symbiotic stars are interacting binary stars composed of red giant and a hot companion star. Their orbital periods range from 6 months to decades. Accretion of material lost by the giant powers the luminosity of the companion, which might be a solar-type main sequence star, a white dwarf star, or a neutron star. I study the physical structure and long-term evolution of these binary systems.
 Interacting Galaxy Image Galaxies
Most galaxies come in pairs or small groups. When galaxies get too close, their gravitational interaction triggers a burst of star formation. During these bursts, the galaxies form hot, blue stars at a prodigious rate. I work with several colleagues to understand this triggered star formation.