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Cornell Department of Astronomy & Space Sciences Fall 2023 Colloquium Series

Thursday, November 16, 2023 at 3:30pm to 4:30pm

Space Sciences Building, 105

"The Chaotic Lives of Planetary Systems"

Abstract: Not long after discovering the universal law of gravitation, Isaac Newton asked a troubling question. Is the solar system stable? It took over 300 years to arrive at an answer. Brute-force numerical integrations have demonstrated that it is possible that Mercury will collide with Venus or be lost into the Sun. Yet despite extensive effort on this thorny question, which led to the development of perturbation theory, the discovery of chaos, and the establishment of the field of non-linear dynamics, we still do not understand the physics driving these instabilities in a general context. This problem has renewed relevance today, since we think such instabilities have shaped the orbital architectures of the thousands of exoplanet systems in the observed sample. I will present some successes using machine learning techniques to make the first accurate predictions of long-term stability in compact exoplanetary systems, and discuss how we ultimately used our machine learning models to elucidate the underlying dynamics and arrive at an analytical understanding of the problem.

Dial-In Information

To view via Zoom, please contact Monica Carpenter ( or Jason Jennings ( for the link.

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Monica Carpenter

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Daniel Tamayo

Speaker Affiliation

Harvey Mudd College

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