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.

Introducing Andy Puckett

Andy Puckett is Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia. He grew up in the St. Louis metro area of southern Illinois, then got his bachelor’s degree in Physics & Mathematics at Vanderbilt University. He moved to Chicago, met his awesome wife (for whom asteroid (178226) Rebeccalouise is named), and earned his PhD in Astronomy & Astrophysics from the University of Chicago. They then ventured north to the University of Alaska Anchorage, where as a postdoc he developed curricula to bring authentic astronomical research projects into the undergraduate classroom. After a 3-year stint as both Assistant Professor and Director of UAA’s Planetarium & Visualization Theater, he then moved his young family again, 4,000+ miles to Georgia. They have 3 children born in 3 different states: Illinois, Alaska, and Georgia. Now they plan to stay put for a while.

Andy’s research interests lie primarily in the astrometric, photometric, and spectroscopic study of small solar system bodies for the purposes of discovery, orbital refinement, and physical characterization. His focus is on distant bodies (centaurs, transneptunians, and comets), but will study any main belt, near-earth, or trojan asteroid that comes his way. He is part of a team that has used data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to discover 44 new objects in the solar system, including five dwarf planet candidates, two of the nine known Neptune trojans, and two of the five known transneptunians with orbits extending beyond 900 AU. On his blog and in the classroom, he uses orbit uncertainty visualizations to show students that science is a process that decreases uncertainty… with time and effort!

He tweets his sciencey thoughts @astropuckett.

Introducing Branden Allen

This week features Branden Allen, a staff astronomer at the Harvard College Observatory, part of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Branden’s research has primarily been focused on the development and deployment of next generation X/γ-Ray wide field monitors with the goal of detecting and characterizing a wide range of
high energy phenomena such as Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRBs) and Supernova. He began his career as graduate student at the University of California, Irvine with the Milagro project (a water Cherenkov all sky TeV γ-ray monitor) and, after graduating in 2007, moved to the CfA joining the ProtoEXIST collaboration which has successfully launched two next generation CdZnTe (CZT) hard X-ray telescopes in two balloon payloads in 2009 and 2012.

In a strange twist of fate he has recently joined the science team of the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission, and has become engaged in the study of near earth objects (NEOs). Here he has been active in the development of the REgolith X-Ray Imaging Spectrometer (REXIS), a joint Harvard-MIT effort which is the student instrument for
OSIRIS-REx that will characterize the elemental composition of the surface of the asteroid 101955 Bennu. OSIRIS-REx is slated for launch in September of 2016, will reach Bennu in 2018, and return a sample to Earth in 2023.

You can find Branden the rest of the year on Twitter at @fermi_lives


Introducing Andy Rivkin

This week, February 10-15, 2014, features 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, and leading a group reporting to NASA about the most important unknown factors related to human exploration of an asteroid.

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