Dan Tamayo works to understand how planetary systems form and evolve over time, incorporating new constraints from the ever-growing sample of planets discovered outside our solar system (exoplanets). He earned his Ph.D. in Astronomy and Space Science from Cornell University, and holds B.S. degrees in Physics, Mathematics, and Philosophy from the University of Michigan.
A central unresolved question is whether typical planetary systems' orbital configurations remain essentially fixed, or whether they evolve and rearrange over time. The orbits in our own Solar System are dynamically chaotic on long timescales, allowing for the possibility of collisions between planets over its 10 billion year lifetime. Whether this is common across exoplanet systems is not yet known, though there is strong evidence that at least some systems do undergo such violent instabilities.
Tamayo is working on elucidating the dynamical mechanisms responsible for these chaotic dynamics, as well as on the long-standing problem of how to predict which orbital configurations will lead to collisions, and which will survive. His recent work on the latter problem using machine learning techniques recently appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and he is currently applying these tools to constrain theoretical models for the formation of planets. His work has been supported through a NASA Hubble Program Fellowship.