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Planetary Science

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HOW CAN WE HELP YOU?

Our planetary science program focuses on solar system bodies and their atmospheres. Using observational data from space- and ground-based instruments and numerical and theoretical analysis, we investigate the origin, evolution, and current state of solar system objects including Mars and Venus, Earth’s Moon, asteroids, comets, jovian Trojans, the satellites of the outer planets, and Pluto and other Trans-Neptunian Objects. A major focus of our research is on the formation and early history of our solar system, which we investigate through computer modeling and the analysis of ancient terrains, basins, and impact craters.

RESEARCH

  • Leading the Juno, New Horizons, and Lucy missions
  • Leading instrument investigations on missions such as Europa Clipper, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Cassini, MESSENGER, BepiColombo, and Rosetta for the reconnaissance and exploration of the planets and smaller solar system bodies
  • Performing complex numerical simulations of the formation and dynamical evolution of the solar system
  • Observation and modeling of planetary and satellite surfaces and atmospheres/exospheres
  • Development of instrument concepts and technology for planetary exploration
  • Development of ground-based observatories and instrumentation for small, portable occultation systems and larger, fixed-base automated robotic telescopes

SCIENCE

  • Origin and evolution of our solar system and planetary systems around other stars
  • The formation of small solar system bodies and planets
  • The migration of the giant outer planets and the late heavy bombardment
  • The impact history of the terrestrial planets
  • The origin of the Moon and other planetary satellites
  • Composition, structure, and dynamics of planetary and satellite atmospheres
  • Composition and physical properties of planetary and satellite surfaces
  • The composition and potential habitability of the interior oceans of Enceladus and Europa
  • Laboratory studies of returned samples, planetary analog materials, and relevant physical processes

MISSIONS

  • Juno
  • New Horizons
  • Lucy
  • Cassini
  • Rosetta
  • Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)
  • JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer)
  • Europa Clipper
  • BepiColombo 
  • MESSENGER
  • Mars Express
  • Venus Express
  • Mars Science Laboratory