Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Physics and Astronomy

First Committee Member

Rebecca Martin

Second Committee Member

Zhaohuan Zhu

Third Committee Member

Stephen Lepp

Fourth Committee Member

Laurel Raftery

Number of Pages



My main research focuses on the dynamics and stability of circumbinary planetary systems and of small bodies in the solar system. Unlike the two-body problem, the three-body problem is more complex as there are stronger interactions with two massive bodies in the system. In the outer solar system, the apsidal precession secular resonance with Neptune makes comets in the Kuiper belt unstable in the early stages of the solar system. This resonance a likely origin for the nitrogen-delivering comets that impacted the Earth bringing some of the nitrogen in the Earth’s atmosphere today. Beyond the solar system, we have observed more than 20 circumbinary planets orbiting around binary stars. We use N-body numerical simulations and analytic results to explore the dynamics and stability of circumbinary planets. We find that around a very eccentric binary, the most stable planets are those that are in polar orbits. Polar orbits are perpendicular to the binary orbital plane. Since the eclipse timing variations technique (ETV) is becoming well developed, it is likely to find misaligned and polar circumbinary planets in future observations with Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and PlAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO). Our models have implications for those different systems. In addition, with hydrodynamic simulations we investigate the evolution of a circumplanetary gas disk – where satellites form around giant planets. We find that the maximum mass of such a disk is too low to allow for in situ formation of the Galilean satellites and external solid material must be supplemented to the disk.


Accretion disks; Celestial mechanics; Methods: analytical; Methods: numerical; Planetary systems; Planets and satellites: formation


Astrophysics and Astronomy

File Format


File Size

9100 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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