Who am I?


Who am I?

I am an astrophysicist and more specifically, a planetary dynamicist.  Astrophysics envelops a broad range of subdisciplines, where one can investigate the life cycles, movements, and even deaths of astronomical bodies.  My research in planetary dynamics explores the motions of small bodies with respect to the larger motions of stars.  Within exoplanets, this can influence our observational and theoretical knowledge to allow for a deeper understanding, or the potential consequences of life on such planets.



My research involves the observation and theoretical study of planets with multiple suns.  Like Tatooine, such exoplanets orbit a pair of stars and these exotic worlds are no longer science fiction or theoretical curiosities.  The Kepler Space Telescope has discovered around a dozen binary stars that host at least one circumbinary planet (CBP), where the stellar binary orbit lies completely within the planetary orbit.  Additionally, I am interested in planets that orbit only one star out of the stellar binary.  The nearest star to the Solar System is Proxima Centauri, which orbits the binary star system Alpha Centauri AB.  My work explores how an Earth-like planet would orbit either star in the binary and the consequences for life as we know such a world.

I also investigate dynamical processes that could have occurred in the early Solar System.  For example, current theories suggest that the Moon formed from a giant impact between two protoplanets and I am interested in the dynamical state of the early Solar System leading up to such an event.  Moreover, the giant planets are likely to have substantially changed their orbits within the early Solar System, where the degree of movement is recorded in the small body populations of the Asteroid or Kuiper Belts.


I am an educator, where I seek to improve students knowledge in the classroom and in the lab.  I strive for active engagement from  students where they build a set of skills that they can utilize in their future endeavors.  To this end, I have experience mentoring both undergraduate and graduate students at several universities.


These students have presented their research results at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society and/or published our findings in a major Astronomical research journal.  At the University of Nebraska at Kearney, I taught undergraduate students as a visiting Assistant Professor, where I developed both lecture and lab curricula for non-physics majors to help build their knowledge and confidence.

© 2020 by Billy Quarles.