Reintroducing Andy Rivkin

Andy is a planetary astronomer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, MD, with his research focusing on the composition of asteroids. In particular, he is interested in those asteroids that have evidence of water or organic materials in them, detectable in their infrared reflectance spectrum. This pursuit has led to studies of asteroids from 1996 FG3, a near-Earth asteroid on which clay minerals has been found, to 24 Themis, an asteroid in the outer belt on which his team found water ice– a first for asteroids. He has had particular interest in the dwarf planet Ceres, producing several papers in the past few years detailing its unusual composition and variation across its surface, as well as writing a focus paper for the Planetary Science Decadal Survey.

In addition to observational work, Andy has been active in the broader near-Earth object community, serving as a team member in several efforts to understand and report the impact hazard we face and how to lessen it, including serving as Investigation Lead for the US portion of the AIDA mission concept and leading a group reporting to NASA about the most important unknown factors related to human exploration of an asteroid. Finally, Andy was the Principal Investigator of the MANTIS mission concept, which aims to conduct an asteroid tour in the 2020s.

The other 51 weeks of the year, you can find Andy at @asrivkin.

Reintroducing Michael Busch

Michael Busch is a research scientist at the SETI Institute.  He primarily works on characterizing near-Earth asteroids using radar and radio techniques; using the Arecibo Observatory, the Goldstone Solar System Radar, and other telescopes.  Lately, he has focused on both potentially hazardous asteroids and asteroids on orbits that are readily accessible for future space missions.

Michael received bachelor’s degrees in physics and astronomy at the University of Minnesota in 2005, and a PhD in planetary science at Caltech in 2010.  He worked as a postdoc at UCLA and at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory before starting at SETI in 2013.

You can find Michael on twitter at .

Introducing Erin Ryan

Erin Ryan is a research scientist at University of Maryland working at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. She is one of the few telescope jockeys in the solar system exploration division at Goddard content with using telescopes both on the ground and in space. She currently studies comets and main belt-ish asteroids in an effort to understand the reservoirs of water in our solar system, and how water might have been transported into the inner solar system by migrations of small bodies over time.

Erin received her bachelor’s degree in astronomy from the University of Arizona in 2002, and then went to the Spitzer Science Center for three years before starting her PhD at the University of Minnesota where she graduated in 2011. Erin has been at Goddard since 2012, first as a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow and now as a soft money funded scientist through University of Maryland. Erin is often found on Twitter under the user name @erinleeryan where she sometimes makes fun of her astronomer spouse @markdavidlacy and their dog @Buster_of_dog.

Introducing Michael Busch

Michael Busch is a research scientist at the SETI Institute.  He primarily works on characterizing near-Earth asteroids using radar and radio techniques; using the Arecibo Observatory, the Goldstone Solar System Radar, and other telescopes.  Lately, he has focused on both potentially hazardous asteroids and asteroids on orbits that are readily accessible for future space missions.

Michael received bachelor’s degrees in physics and astronomy at the University of Minnesota in 2005, and a PhD in planetary science at Caltech in 2010.  He worked as a postdoc at UCLA and at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory before starting at SETI in 2013.

You can find Michael on twitter at

Introducing Gal Sarid

Gal Sarid has recently joined the Florida Space Institute, at the University of Central Florida, as an associate scientist in planetary sciences (late 2014). Before moving to the Sunshine State he spent some time as a postdoctoral research associate in the Aloha State (Institute for Astronomy and NASA Astrobiology Institute at the University of Hawaii Manoa) and The People’s Republic of Cambridge (Earth & Planetary Sciences department at Harvard). He completed his PhD in Planetary Sciences (with a heavy background in physics and astronomy) at Tel Aviv University, Israel, overlooking the Mediterranean and working with Prof. Dina Prialnik.

He works on topics involving thermal and collisional evolution of planetary bodies (comets, asteroids and terrestrial planets) and early compositional evolution in the solar system. Most of his research focuses on relating thermo-physical, chemical and dynamical properties of various small body populations to their origin conditions and evolution pathways. The ultimate goal is to understand how planetary systems arrange themselves and promote habitable conditions.

With a general inquiring sense, Gal is willing and able to chat, collaborate and work on any interesting question in the realm of planetary physics. Now let’s discuss one of the more exciting times to be involved in space exploration!

Introducing Edward Gomez

This week features Edward Gomez. Edward is the education director for Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network. As part of this role, he is making a telescope control web interface for education observing programmes run by LCOGT and its partners. He is interested in making innovative ways for people to use LCOGT’s robotic telescopes for education and science communication. His research interests are in stellar winds and Near Earth Objects. Edward normally tweets at @zemogle.

Introducing Alessondra Springmann

Alessondra Springmann is a planetary radar astronomer finishing up an almost two-year stint at Arecibo Observatory observing near-Earth asteroids with the Arecibo planetary radar system on the 305-meter William E. Gordon radio telescope. Her research interests involve binary asteroids systems, and feedback between surface properties of asteroids and non-gravitational forces. She will be working for the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission as a graduate researcher at the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in the fall on more asteroid science. Alessondra received her M.Sc. from MIT in Earth & Planetary Sciences and a B.A. from Wellesley College in Astrophysics. In her spare time she hikes, SCUBA dives, herds @observatorycats, and races sailboats. The rest of the year you can her at @sondy on Twitter.