I am a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. My research focuses on the physical characterization of small bodies in the Solar System: using various techniques I measure the sizes, albedos, and compositions of asteroids, Centaurs, trans-neptunian objects, and comets.
The results of my research are based on observations acquired with ground and space-based telescopes working in the optical and infrared wavelength regimes, as well as computational models which I utilize to interpret the data. I have developed an automated data reduction and analysis pipeline that is currently being used in different observational programs to measure the brightness of asteroids.
My studies mainly focus on two small-body populations of the Solar System: Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) and outer Solar System bodies.
NEOs are asteroids and comets that come closer to the Sun than 1.3 au. Some NEOs can get close to the Earth and can even cross its orbit. NEOs are interesting because they are our nearest neighbors in space. This fact makes them relatively easy to access with spacecraft, but they also bear an impact risk to Earth. Past impacts of NEOs are considered a major contributor of materials that are important for life on Earth. Hence, Earth’s past and future are closely related to NEOs.
Outer Solar System bodies can be divided into Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs) and Centaurs. TNOs are objects that move on orbits outside the orbit of Neptune. Due to their large distance to the Sun, TNOs are cold bodies that harbor different kinds of ices and volatiles. TNOs are considered remnants of the planetesimal disk from which the planets have formed and they help us understand the formation and evolution of the Solar System. Centaurs are escaped TNOs that move on orbits between the giant planets. Both Centaurs and TNOs are the source population of short-period comets that occasionally enter the inner Solar System.
Understanding the physical properties of small bodies, as well as their distributions and variations throughout the Solar System provides important constraints on the formation and evolution of the Solar System and its implications for life on Earth.