Carl D. Murray's Home Page

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Office Hours (from 23 September 2013)

Thursdays 12.00-1.00


My research interests

I am interested in all aspects of the dynamics of all planetary systems, from the orbital evolution of dust particles to the stability of planetary orbits.

As a PhD student at Queen Mary my first research papers (with Iwan Williams and David Hughes) were concerned with simulating the Quadrantid meteor stream and connecting its evolution to its observability from Earth. It was at this stage that I got interested in the dynamics of the three body problem and began working with Stan Dermott (then at Cornell) on the applications of "horseshoe orbits" (a special solution of the restricted three-body problem) to the problem of maintaining narrow planetary rings.

I did post-doctoral work with Stan at Cornell University in the early 1980's where we tackled a variety of problems including the nature of the Kirkwood Gaps in the asteroid belt as well as asteroid rotation. Back at Queen Mary I worked on Project Longstop. This was a long-term numerical integration of the outer planets and an analysis of their interactions. A modified version of the code was subsequently applied to the Uranian satellites. At this time I became interested in chaos and non-linear dynamics as well as the application of computer algebra to problems in solar system dynamics. I developed an interest in the planetary perturbing potential (also called the "disturbing function") which is the inverse of the distance separating two perturbing planets. Working with David Harper I investigated its expansion in terms of the orbital elements of the individual planets. This gave me a good understanding of the phenomenon of resonance and how it pervades the solar system.

In 1990 I was selected as a member of the Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) team on the Cassini spacecraft, part of the NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens mission to the planet Saturn. Not surprisingly my research in recent years has been dominated by work on Saturn's rings and their gravitational interaction with the small natural satellites orbiting nearby. In particular I have been fascinated by Saturn's F ring as I work with colleagues to understand its bizarre appearance. Using Cassini images we have shown how the nearby moon, Prometheus, produces regular patterns on the ring; we call this the "streamer-channel" phenomenon (take a look at this image, for an example). We also believe that this interaction has other important implications. To date the Cassini Imaging Team has been responsible for the discovery of six new moons of Saturn (Methone, Pallene, Polydeuces, Daphnis, Anthe and Aegaeon) as well as several new rings. My group at Queen Mary has a particular responsibility for determining and monitoring the orbits of Saturn's small moons. To learn more about the ISS instrument and the images taken by it, visit the CICLOPS web site. To browse the most recent 500 images from Cassini, click here.

Currently my research group consists of Dr Nick Cooper, Dr Gareth Williams and Mr Nick Attree. We also have good research links with Dr Craig Agnor and Prof Richard Nelson in the Astronomy Unit.

Research students

Over the years I have been very fortunate to have worked with some talented research students who have obtained their PhDs under my supervision:

Solar System Dynamics

Stan Dermott and I published our textbook, Solar System Dynamics, in 2000 and we are delighted that it seems to have become a standard reference work on the subject. A website of resources to accompany the book can be found here. Parts of the book have been scanned and are available to view (legally!) through Google Books thanks to an agreement between Cambridge University Press and Google. You can see these here.

Here are some reviews of the book:

"The need for a new and exhaustive book in solar system dynamics is wonderfully met by [this] text … stimulating, well-written, and informative, it discusses in a masterly way every significant and exciting recent development in the subject. The authors’ crystal-clear exposition … is greatly helped by the inclusion of the necessary classical background... [and] cleverly constructed problems … [this] book will undoubtedly take its place with previously acknowledged leaders in its field. It will become indispensable to undergraduate and postgraduate students and to the serious researcher." Professor Archie E. Roy, University of Glasgow

"… achieves the seemingly impossible by taking us from the first historical formulations … through to the [latest] advances proferred … A well written and indexed book; an ‘absolute must’ for any graduate student and researcher in Solar System and Planetary Studies." Professor J. A. M. McDonnell, University of Kent, Canterbury

"Solar System Dynamics is excellent reading for anyone who wants to learn how meteorites get to Earth, why Mercury spins 3 times for each 2 orbits, and how Io’s volcanism is powered. I plan to adopt it for my course on planetary physics." Professor Peter Goldreich, California Institute of Technology

" … the first textbook to describe the powerful new analytic and numerical methods in planetary dynamics, and one of the most important textbooks in this field in several decades. It will be read by every serious student of solar system dynamics." Professor Scott Tremaine, Princeton University

" … a lucid textbook and a comprehensive reference … An authoritative work of this type is long overdue and this one should remain a classic in the field for years to come." Dr Donald K. Yeomans, NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory

"… likely to become the standard graduate-level text in this field. I wish I’d had it when I started out in solar system dynamics." Professor Martin J. Duncan, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario

"This book beautifully bridges the gap between the old and the new celestial mechanics … ." Professor Brian G. Marsden, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

"If you want to know (literally) what’s rockin’ and rollin’ in the solar system, this is the book … refreshingly clear and understandable." Professor Carolyn C. Porco, University of Arizona, Tucson

"This is a first class text book and a thought provoking reference source." Peter Mata, Spaceflight

"The subject of planetary dynamics will greatly benefit from the publication of Murray and Dermott’s textbook." Irish Astronomical Journal

"… a benchmark publication in the field of planetary dynamics and destined to become a classic." Europe & Astronomy

"... an amazing text-book - a bible for anyone entering the world of dynamical studies of Solar System bodies." Dr Brian May

Recent talks and seminars

In the media

Here are some links to recent appearances and references in the media:



The views and opinions expressed in this page are mine. The College does not have editorial control over this page and does not endorse, warrant or take responsibility for its content.

This page maintained by Carl D. Murray
Revised 24 April 2014