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Planetary Dynamics


To understand the formation of stars and planets in our own solar system and beyond, UCLA scientists must study the gravitational interactions between the dust particles and gas molecules within young solar nebulae, the clumping of planetesimals within nascent circumstellar disks before they form planets,and how the motion of fully formed planets influence the orbits of other planets and small bodies in a star system.

Prof. Brad Hansen studies the dynamics of giant extrasolar planets that orbit close to their parent star and how they are affected by such close proximity to stellar radiation.  Prof. David Jewitt studies the rotation and orbit of asteroids and comets using optical and infrared observations, while Prof. Jean-Luc Margot studies the rotation and orbit of near-Earth asteroids using radar measurements from Arecibo Observatory.  Prof. Michael Fitzgerald, who will directly image extrasolar planets and circumstellar disks around young stars with the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), can chart the orbit of planets imaged with GPI and study the position and shape of disks to infer the gravitational influence of planets too small or dim to be imaged.

Prof. William Newman using numerical models to simulate the formation of the solar system in order to understand how dust, gas, and rocky material first coalesced to form stars and planets.  Prof. Gerald Schubert has developed models for the formation of Earth and the other rocky planets.


fitzgerald hansen jewitt margot
Michael Fitzgerald Brad Hansen David Jewitt Jean-Luc Margot
 newman  schubert
William Newman Gerald Schubert

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Recent Publications

Newman, W.I., (2013). Rotational kinematics and torques for triaxial bodies. Icarus, 223(1), p. 615-618.