Planetary Group -- Research

Faculty and Postdoctoral Researchers:

Tilden Barnes
Tilden primarily works with the PDS-SBN assisting with dataset validation, final data archiving duties, maintaining archive integrity, maintaining a local database, and other programming duties.
James "Gerbs" Bauer
Dr. Bauer, a Research Professor, is the PI of the Small Bodies Node of NASA's Planetary Data System. His research interests include near-earth objects, comets, Centaurs and other icy bodies.
John Dailey
Daniel Darg
Drake Deming
Drake Deming works on characterization of the atmospheres of extrasolar planets using transit and eclipse techniques. He observes transiting exoplanetary systems using Hubble and Spitzer, and also using ground-based telescopes. Drake also has an interest in spectroscopy of planetary atmospheres in the Solar System.
Tony Farnham
Tony's research has primarily focussed on studies of comets, Centaurs and Kuiper Belt objects. Most recently, he has been utilizing the coma morphology (jets, etc.) observed in different comets to infer the rotational characteristics of their nuclei and to find the locations of active regions that produce the jets. Other recent cometary studies include using narrowband photometry to determine the gas production rates for various comets and modeling dust tails to infer some of the characteristics of the dust grains and to determine the activity levels of the comet as a function of time. He also observes the lightcurves of Centaurs and Kuiper belt objects to determine their physical and rotational characteristics. His other interests include the evolutionary processes and relationships between comets, Centaurs and KBOs, solar system formation, celestial mechanics and digital image processing.
Tony's personal page
Lori Feaga
Lori is a planetary scientist with a background in spectroscopy. As a graduate student, she studied UV spectra of Jupiter's moon Io to determine its atmospheric composition and distribution. More recently, she has applied her spectroscopic expertise to studies of the composition, production, and distribution of volatiles in the atmospheres of Jupiter family comets. She was a science team member on the Deep Impact (DI) mission to comet Tempel 1, mapping the distribution of carbon dioxide around a comet for the first time, a Co-I on DI's extended mission, mapping Hartley 2's water and carbon dioxide concentrations as well as identifying and differentiating between two sources of water and their contribution to the coma and Hartley 2's hyperactivity. In addition, the DI spacecraft was used as a remote observatory for two other comets, one of which (C/2009 P1 Garradd) was determined by Lori to have a very asymmetric carbon monoxide to water ratio around perihelion. As a Co-I on the Rosetta mission's UV spectrograph team, Lori studied Steins and Lutetia, asteroids en-route to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko (C-G), as well as the composition and behavior of C-G during Rosetta's two-year encounter with the comet. Combined with the work of others in the planetary small bodies community, her work on the composition of comets will shed light on their history and formation. Additionally, Lori is part of the DI team that is studying the lunar hydration content and has shown strong evidence of a cyclic process occurring with the highest levels of hydration occurring near the morning and evening terminators and decreasing water content with rising daytime temperatures. Finally, Lori has taken her expertise into the classroom as the Education and Public Outreach Lead on the DI extended mission and continues to enjoy visiting schools and conducting research with undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Maryland.
Adeline Gicquel-Brodtke
Adeline is a planetary scientist whose work focuses on small bodies in the Solar System (especially comets) that are known to contain pristine material of the protoplanetary disk. She has acquired an expertise in the development of numerical models and in the acquisition and analysis of infrared, visible, and radio to sub-millimeter data. Her work has included observations using the OSIRIS cameras and the MIRO instrument during the Rosetta mission as well as the Spitzer Space Telescope during the Deep Impact mission to study the coma activity of gas and dust and to model associated outbursts. She has also conducted observations from several single-dish antennas to determine the physical parameters of comets. She is additionally focusing on comets observed by NEOWISE in order to derive the CO+CO2 production rates and the dust production rate. She continues to use complementary ground-based observations to determine the extent to which CO or CO2 is the dominant species in cometary composition.
With the Small Bodies Node, Adeline is continuing to create data dictionaries for the Rosetta and New Horizons missions and migrate the Rosetta and New Horizons PDS3 datasets to PDS4.
Douglas Hamilton
Doug's primary research is as a theorist attempting to understand the Solar System using dynamical models. His computer modeling includes studies on orbital dynamics of planetary rings, non-gravitational forces, planetary formation and the dynamical evolution of the Solar System.
Doug's personal page
Tilak Hewagama
Ben Hirsch
Ben works in the Small Bodies Node, helping to prepare and validate datasets according to PDS4 standards, and migrate PDS3 datasets to PDS4.
Mike Kelley
My work revolves around comets and asteroids, remnants of our Solar System's epoch of planet formation. Their compositions reflect the material and processes that shaped our proto-planetary disk, as it existed 4.5 billion years ago. I primarily study dust properties and cometary activity with a variety of techniques, including reflectance and thermal emission spectroscopy, morphological analyses, dust dynamical models, and photometric variability. I use data from ground-based telescopes, like the Lowell Discovery Telescope, Zwicky Transient Facility, and NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility, and space-based telescopes, like the James Webb and Hubble Space Telescopes. I was a science team member of the Deep Impact eXtended Investigation, and am now a member of the Solar System Science Collaboration for the Rubin Observatory's Legacy Survey of Space and Time.
Mike's personal page
Yaeji Kim
Jacob Kloos
Matthew Knight
Matthew studies comets, primarily focusing on investigations of their morphology and brightness behavior in order to infer properties of their nuclei. He mostly uses ground-based optical and near-IR telescopes for these investigations, frequently using Lowell Observatory's Discovery Channel Telescope through UMD's guaranteed time arrangement. He is a world expert in near-Sun comets and has a long-standing research program analyzing comets observed with the space-based solar observatories SOHO and STEREO. Recently, he initiated a program to study near-Sun asteroids in order to investigate evolutionary effects of these extreme orbits and to better understand the hazard to Earth posed by near-Earth objects (both cometary and asteroidal) on near-Sun orbits. Other funded projects in which he is involved include coma and nucleus studies of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko using the Alice UV spectrograph on the Rosetta mission, analysis of optical and UV observations of comets observed by the MESSENGER mission to Mercury, monitoring the activity of apparent comets residing in the main asteroid belt, and a study of orbital trends in activity in comets observed with the Spitzer space telescope.
Matthew's personal page
Ludmilla Kolokolova
Ludmilla's main scientific interest is physics of all types of cosmic dust (interplanetary, interstellar, and circumstellar dust and planetary aerosols) and small bodies (comets, asteroids, satellites of planets, and Kuiper-Belt objects). She uses remote sensing and in-situ methods to study these objects focusing on spectrophotometry and polarimetry. She has participated in the development of astronomical and space instrumentation, and theoretical and laboratory simulations of light scattering by particles and surfaces. She is also the manager of the Small Bodies Node of the NASA Planetary Data System and works on archiving the data obtained at space-mission and ground-based observations of comets, asteroids and interplanetary (zodiacal) dust.
Ludmilla's personal page
Pat Lawton
Pat joined the Planetary Data System (PDS) Small Bodies Node (SBN) in 2019. She assists with supporting the University of Maryland's SBN and the SBN's Minor Planet Center (MPC) subnode activities as assigned.
Andrei Mamoutkine
As a Senior Faculty Specialist, Andrei is currently responsible for:

  • Replication in real-time of the Small Bodies Node (SBN) copies for Minor Planet Center (MPC) Maria (mpc_development) and PostgreSQL (mpcbeta and mpc_sbn) databases.
  • Distribution of the SBN copy of both Postgres databases to the 6 observatories all over the World in real-time.
  • Publication of different statistics and metrics from the SBN copies of Maria and Postgres databases on the Minor Planet Center Annex @SBN
  • Automation of the Close Approach Alerts processing from the Minor Planet Center (MPC), and publication of the derivative information (including geometry images) into International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) website

Anne Raugh
Anne is the principal programmer, database administrator and web master for the Small Bodies Node of the NASA Planetary Data System, located here at UMCP under the direction of Mike A'Hearn. She will be providing similar support for the Deep Impact mission archives. She recently completed a Bachelor of Music Theory degree so that when she tells her young nephews that their music is crap, she can back it up with diagrams.
Derek Richardson
Derek's primary interest is understanding the origins of the solar system through dynamical modeling. His specialty is planetesimal dynamics, which includes planet formation (origins of solar systems), collision dynamics, planetary rings, granular dynamics, and binary asteroids.
Derek's personal page
Derek's research gallery
Jessica Sunshine
Elizabeth Warner
Since joining the department, Elizabeth has had a number of roles. She has been a part of the Education/Public Outreach (EPO) teams for a number of missions such as Deep Impact, EPOXI, and Dawn missions. She maintains and has designed a number of sites including the Amateur Observers' Program, the department website, UMD Observatory, and PDS-SBN website. Currently, she continues to mentor SDU students at the UMD Observatory, coordinate activities at the Observatory, and maintain the PDS-SBN website.
Elizabeth's personal page
Dennis Wellnitz
Currently the majority of his effort is in support of the NASA Discovery mission Deep Impact. He is the Technical Contract Monitor for the University of Maryland (UMD) Instruments Contract with Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., located in Boulder Colorado. Though much of his monitoring is done from the University by way of telecons and NetMeeting, he spends an average of about one week per month on location in Boulder, and at times like instrument integration and testing, intends to be on-site for all critical events. He also provides general Deep Impact Science Team support, investigating and looking out for the science interests and issues that arise during the design and production of the instruments and spacecraft.
Dennis also provides technical and outreach support for the UMD Observatory and for the Astronomy Department, working to maintain and improve the technical capabilities of the Observatory and the Department.
Working with Lucy McFadden, he has contributed to the first NASA Discovery mission NEAR (Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous). With the MSI-NIS team, he worked on the Near Infrared Spectrometer (NIS) and the Multi-Spectral Imaging Camera (MSI), calibrating the NIS, developing and implementing data verification and validation procedures, and working on data analysis and interpretation. Currently he and Lucy hope for funding from the NEAR Data Analysis Program to continue this work.
Coming from a background of instrument design and construction, he has worked on improving the UMD Comet Imaging and Spectroscopy System, and more recently on upgrading the UMD Occultation System, as well as data reduction and analysis from these and other instruments, most notably comet observations using the Echelle spectrometers on the KPNO 4-m Mayall telescope and the Keck 10-m telescope.
Through the Technology Extension Service of the UMD Engineering Research Center, he provides consultation on optics-related issues to Maryland businesses.
Through a grant from the Maryland Industrial Partnerships, he is also working with the Maryland company LeaTech to improve their wind-tunnel sensor systems.
Quanzhi Ye
Quanzhi (QZ) is primarily interested in the small bodies of the Solar System -- namely asteroids, comets, and meteoroids. He uses a wide range of techniques to study these bodies, including telescopic observations (imaging and spectroscopy), dynamical models, and meteor observations. He has used the Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar to study meteor showers and their relations to active and extinct comets, as well as the Zwicky Transient Facility project at Palomar Observatory to find near-Earth asteroids and comets. After arriving at UMD in 2019, he became a frequent user of the Lowell Discovery Telescope. He also helps maintain the UMD Small Body Node and assists archiving survey data.
QZ's personal page

Graduate Students:

Past Graduate Students in Planetary Science:

  • Carrie Holt (2023)
  • Harrison Agrusa (2022)
  • Kyle Sheppard (2021)
  • Dana Louie (2021)
  • Amy Steele (2020)
  • Zeeve Rogoszinski (2020)
  • Thomas Rimlinger (2020)
  • Mahmuda Afrin-Badhan (2019)
  • Ashlee Wilkins (2017)
  • Maggie McAdam (2017)
  • Ron Ballouz (2017)
  • Holly Sheets (2016)
  • Jonathan Fraine (2015)
  • Jessica Donaldson (2014)
  • Alan Gersch (2013)
  • Steve Schwartz (2013)
  • Daniel Jontof-Hutter (2012)
  • Randall Perrine (2011)
  • Catherine Philpott (2010)
  • Yana Radeva (2010)
  • Matthew Knight (2008)
  • Ke Zhang (2007)
  • Kevin Walsh (2006)
  • Donna Pierce (2005)
  • Jianyang Li (2005)
  • Kelly Fast (2005)
  • Zoe Leinhardt (2005)
  • Laura Woodney (2000)
  • Yan Fernandez (1999)
  • Carey Lisse (1992)
  • Nalin Samarasinha (1992)
  • Sue Hoban (1989)
  • Dave Schleicher (1983)
  • Marla Moore (1981)
  • H. Frey (1977)
  • Frank Ahern (1972)
  • Don Yeomans (1970)
  • E. Silverberg (1969)
  • Full list of all graduate alumni and theses
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