Moving Planets Around

N-body simulations is an important research approach in modern astrophysics. Notably, Many students start their careers in this field by using N-body codes as black boxes. On one hand, black boxes indeed hide the complexity of the simulation, allowing the students to approach this field more easily; on the other hand, it can be dangerous to use an N-body code without sufficiently understand how it works.

In collaboration with Adrian Hamers (IAS), Nathan Leigh (AMNH), and Javier Roa (JPL), supported and guided by Piet Hut (IAS) and Jun Makino (RIKEN/AICS), I am currently working on an education book on modeling planetary system dynamics using N-body simulations. This book is part of the Art of Computational Science project (http://www.artcompsci.org/), and a continuation of the “Moving Stars Around” project (http://www.artcompsci.org/kali/pub/msa/title.html). Targeting undergraduate students with STEM backgrounds, this book introduces the full process of N-body modeling, from writing a simple Euler integrator, to implementing a start-of-the-art Gauss-Radau integrator, to eventually use the self-built code to carry out a real small research project. Once finished, the whole book and source code will be freely available online. The hard copies of the book will also be published.