R. P. Binzel

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

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Publications (901)822.52 Total impact

  • Alissa M. Earle, Richard P. Binzel
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    ABSTRACT: Since previous long-term insolation modeling in the early 1990s, new atmospheric pressure data, increased computational power, and the upcoming flyby of the Pluto system by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft have generated new motivation and increased capabilities for the study of Pluto's complex long-term (million-years) insolation history. The two primary topics of interest in studying Pluto's insolation history are the variations in insolation patterns when integrated over different intervals and the evolution of diurnal insolation patterns over the last several decades. We find latitudinal dichotomies when comparing average insolation over timescales of days, decades, centuries, and millennia, where all timescales we consider are short relative to the predicted timescales for Pluto's chaotic orbit. Depending on the timescales of volatile migration, some consequences of these insolation patterns may be manifested in the surface features revealed by New Horizons. We find the Maximum Diurnal Insolation (MDI) at any latitude is driven most strongly when Pluto's obliquity creates a long arctic summer (or "midnight sun") beginning just after perihelion. Pluto's atmospheric pressure, as measured through stellar occultation observations during the past three decades, shows a circumstantial correlation with this midnight sun scenario as quantified by the MDI parameter.
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    ABSTRACT: The clear angular separation of Pluto and Charon from ground-based telescopes has been enabled by improved technology, particularly adaptive optics systems. Near-infrared spectral data have revealed Charon's surface to be rich in crystalline water ice and ammonia hydrates. In this work, we search for spectral differences across Charon's surface with new near-infrared spectral data taken in the K-band (2.0-2.4 μm) with SINFONI on the VLT and NIRI on Gemini North as well as with previously published spectral data. The strength of the absorption band of ammonia hydrate is dependent on the state of the ice, concentration in H2O, grain size, temperature and exposure to radiation. We find variability of the band center and band depth among spectra. This could indicate variability of the distribution of ammonia hydrate across Charon's surface. If the spectral variation is due to physical properties of Charon, the New Horizons flyby could find the concentration of ammonia hydrate heterogeneously distributed across the surface. Comparison between this work and New Horizons results will test the limits of ground-based reconnaissance.
    Icarus 12/2014; 246. DOI:10.1016/j.icarus.2014.04.010 · 2.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The surface of Pluto as it is understood on the eve of the encounter of the New Horizons spacecraft (mid-2015) consists of a spatially heterogeneous mix of solid N2, CH4, CO, C2H6, and an additional component that imparts color, and may not be an ice. The known molecular ices are detected by near-infrared spectroscopy. The N2 ice occurs in the hexagonal crystalline β-phase, stable at T > 35.6 K. Spectroscopic evidence for wavelength shifts in the CH4 bands attests to the complex mixing of CH4 and N2 in the solid state, in accordance with the phase diagram for N2 + CH4. Spectra obtained at several aspects of Pluto's surface as the planet rotates over its 6.4-day period show variability in the distribution of CH4 and N2 ices, with stronger CH4 absorption bands associated with regions of higher albedo, in correlation with the visible rotational light curve. CO and N2 ice absorptions are also strongly modulated by the rotation period; the bands are strongest on the anti-Charon hemisphere of Pluto. Longer term changes in the strengths of Pluto's absorption bands occur as the viewing geometry changes on seasonal time-scales, although a complete cycle has not been observed. The non-ice component of Pluto's surface may be a relatively refractory material produced by the UV and cosmic-ray irradiation of the surface ices and gases in the atmosphere, although UV does not generally penetrate the atmospheric CH4 to interact with the surface. Laboratory simulations indicate that a rich chemistry ensues by the irradiation of mixtures of the ices known to occur on Pluto, but specific compounds have not yet been identified in spectra of the planet. Charon's surface is characterized by spectral bands of crystalline H2O ice, and a band attributed to one or more hydrates of NH3. Amorphous H2O ice may also be present; the balance between the amorphization and crystallization processes on Charon remains to be clarified. The albedo of Charon and its generally spatially uniform neutral color indicate that a component, not yet identified, is mixed in some way with the H2O and NH3·nH2O ices. Among the many known small bodies in the transneptunian region, several share characteristics with Pluto and Charon, including the presence of CH4, N2, C2H6, H2O ices, as well as components that yield a wide variety of surface albedo and color. The New Horizons investigation of the Pluto-Charon system will generate new insight into the physical properties of the broader transneptunian population, and eventually to the corresponding bodies expected in the numerous planetary systems currently being discovered elsewhere in the Galaxy.
    Icarus 12/2014; 246. DOI:10.1016/j.icarus.2014.05.023 · 2.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The cameras of New Horizons will provide robust data sets that should be imminently amenable to geological analysis of the Pluto system's landscapes. In this paper, we begin with a brief discussion of the planned observations by the New Horizons cameras that will bear most directly on geological interpretability. Then we broadly review the major geological processes that could potentially operate on the surfaces of Pluto and its major moon Charon. We first survey exogenic processes (i.e. those for which energy for surface modification is supplied externally to the planetary surface): impact cratering, sedimentary processes (including volatile migration), and the work of wind. We conclude with an assessment of the prospects for endogenic activity in the form of tectonics and cryovolcanism.
    Icarus 12/2014; 246. DOI:10.1016/j.icarus.2014.04.028 · 2.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Olivine-rich asteroids appear to be common in the main asteroid belt as well as present in the near-Earth asteroid population. There are a number of meteorite classes that are dominated by olivine ± metal. To determine whether relationships exist between these asteroids and meteorites, we spectrally character-ized a number of olivine + meteoritic metal powder intimate and areal mixtures, pallasite slabs, and olivine powders on a metal slab. Our goal is to understand the spectral characteristics of olivine + metal assem-blages and develop spectral metrics that can be used to analyze reflectance spectra of olivine-dominated asteroids. We found that the major olivine absorption band in the 1 lm region is resolvable in intimate mixtures for metal abundances as high as $90 wt.%. The wavelength position of the 1 lm region olivine
    Icarus 11/2014; 252:39-82. DOI:10.1016/j.icarus.2014.10.003 · 2.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In understanding the composition and internal structure of asteroids, their density is perhaps the most diagnostic quantity. We aim here to characterize the surface composition, mutual orbit, size, mass, and density of the small main-belt binary asteroid (939) Isberga. For that, we conduct a suite of multi-technique observations, including optical lightcurves over many epochs, near-infrared spectroscopy, and interferometry in the thermal infrared. We develop a simple geometric model of binary systems to analyze the interferometric data in combination with the results of the lightcurve modeling. From spectroscopy, we classify Ibserga as a Sq-type asteroid, consistent with the albedo of 0.14$^{+0.09}_{-0.06}$ (all uncertainties are reported as 3-$\sigma$ range) we determine (average albedo of S-types is 0.197 $\pm$ 0.153, Pravec et al., 2012, Icarus 221, 365-387). Lightcurve analysis reveals that the mutual orbit has a period of 26.6304 $\pm$ 0.0001 h, is close to circular, and has pole coordinates within 7 deg. of (225, +86) in ECJ2000, implying a low obliquity of 1.5 deg. The combined analysis of lightcurves and interferometric data allows us to determine the dimension of the system and we find volume-equivalent diameters of 12.4$^{+2.5}_{-1.2}$ km and 3.6$^{+0.7}_{-0.3}$ km for Isberga and its satellite, circling each other on a 33 km wide orbit. Their density is assumed equal and found to be $2.91^{+1.72}_{-2.01}$ g.cm$^{-3}$, lower than that of the associated ordinary chondrite meteorites, suggesting the presence of some macroporosity, but typical of S-types of the same size range (Carry, 2012, P\&SS 73, 98-118). The present study is the first direct measurement of the size of a small main-belt binary. Although the interferometric observations of Isberga are at the edge of MIDI capabilities, the method described here is applicable to others suites of instruments (e.g, LBT, ALMA).
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    ABSTRACT: We review the results of an extensive campaign to determine the physical, geological, and dynamical properties of asteroid (101955) Bennu. This investigation provides information on the orbit, shape, mass, rotation state, radar response, photometric, spectroscopic, thermal, regolith, and environmental properties of Bennu. We combine these data with cosmochemical and dynamical models to develop a hypothetical timeline for Bennu's formation and evolution. We infer that Bennu is an ancient object that has witnessed over 4.5 Gyr of solar system history. Its chemistry and mineralogy were established within the first 10 Myr of the solar system. It likely originated as a discrete asteroid in the inner Main Belt approximately 0.7–2 Gyr ago as a fragment from the catastrophic disruption of a large (approximately 100-km), carbonaceous asteroid. It was delivered to near-Earth space via a combination of Yarkovsky-induced drift and interaction with giant-planet resonances. During its journey, YORP processes and planetary close encounters modified Bennu's spin state, potentially reshaping and resurfacing the asteroid. We also review work on Bennu's future dynamical evolution and constrain its ultimate fate. It is one of the most Potentially Hazardous Asteroids with an approximately 1-in-2700 chance of impacting the Earth in the late 22nd century. It will most likely end its dynamical life by falling into the Sun. The highest probability for a planetary impact is with Venus, followed by the Earth. There is a chance that Bennu will be ejected from the inner solar system after a close encounter with Jupiter. OSIRIS-REx will return samples from the surface of this intriguing asteroid in September 2023.
    11/2014; DOI:10.1111/maps.12353
  • Richard P Binzel
    Nature 10/2014; 514(7524):559-61. DOI:10.1038/514559a · 42.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: OSIRIS-REx is the third spacecraft in the NASA New Frontiers Program and is planned for launch in 2016. OSIRIS-REx will orbit the near-Earth asteroid (101955) Bennu, characterize it, and return a sample of the asteroid's regolith back to Earth. The Regolith X-ray Imaging Spectrometer (REXIS) is an instrument on OSIRIS-REx designed and built by students at MIT and Harvard. The purpose of REXIS is to collect and image sun-induced fluorescent X-rays emitted by Bennu, thereby providing spectroscopic information related to the elemental makeup of the asteroid regolith and the distribution of features over its surface. Telescopic reflectance spectra suggest a CI or CM chondrite analog meteorite class for Bennu, where this primitive nature strongly motivates its study. A number of factors, however, will influence the generation, measurement, and interpretation of the X-ray spectra measured by REXIS. These include: the compositional nature and heterogeneity of Bennu, the time-variable Solar state, X-ray detector characteristics, and geometric parameters for the observations. In this paper, we will explore how these variables influence the precision to which REXIS can measure Bennu's surface composition. By modeling the aforementioned factors, we place bounds on the expected performance of REXIS and its ability to ultimately place Bennu in an analog meteorite class.
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    ABSTRACT: The Design Reference Asteroid (DRA) is a compilation of all that is known about the OSIRIS-REx mission target, asteroid (101955) Bennu. It contains our best knowledge of the properties of Bennu based on an extensive observational campaign that began shortly after its discovery, and has been used to inform mission plan development and flight system design. The DRA will also be compared with post-encounter science results to determine the accuracy of our Earth-based characterization efforts. The extensive observations of Bennu in 1999 has made it one of the best-characterized near-Earth asteroids. Many physical parameters are well determined, and span a number of categories: Orbital, Bulk, Rotational, Radar, Photometric, Spectroscopic, Thermal, Surface Analog, and Environment Properties. Some results described in the DRA have been published in peer-reviewed journals while others have been reviewed by OSIRIS-REx Science Team members and/or external reviewers. Some data, such as Surface Analog Properties, are based on our best knowledge of asteroid surfaces, in particular those of asteroids Eros and Itokawa. This public release of the OSIRIS-REx Design Reference Asteroid is a annotated version of the internal OSIRIS-REx document OREX-DOCS-04.00-00002, Rev 9 (accepted by the OSIRIS-REx project on 2014-April-14). The supplemental data products that accompany the official OSIRIS-REx version of the DRA are not included in this release. We are making this document available as a service to future mission planners in the hope that it will inform their efforts.
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    ABSTRACT: We examine the spectral properties of asteroid pairs that were disrupted in the last 2 Myrs to examine whether the site of the fission can be revealed. We studied the possibility that the sub-surface material, perhaps on one hemisphere, has spectral characteristics differing from the original weathered surface, by performing rotationally-resolved spectroscopic observations to look for local variations as the asteroid rotates. We observed 11 asteroids in pairs in the near-IR and visible range. Photometry was also conducted to determine the rotational phases of a spectrum on the asteroid lightcurves. We do not detect any rotational spectral variations within the signal-to-noise, which allow us to constrain the extent of any existing surface heterogeneity. For each observed spectrum of a longitudinal segment of an asteroid, we estimate the maximal size of an un-detected "spot" with a spectral signature different than the average. For 5 asteroids the maximal diameter of such a spot is smaller by a factor of two than the diameter of the secondary member. Therefore, the site of the fission is larger than any area with a unique spectral parameters and the site of the fission does not have a unique spectrum. In the case of an S-complex asteroid, where the site of fission is expected to present non-weathered spectra, a lack of a fission spot can be explained if the rotational-fission process is followed by the spread of dust that re-accumulates on the primary asteroid and covers it homogeneously. This is demonstrated for the young asteroid 6070 that presents an Sq-type spectrum while its inner material, that is presumably revealed on the surface of its secondary member, 54827, has a fresher, Q-type spectrum. The spread of dust observed in the disruption event of asteroid P/2013 R3, might be an example of such a process and an indication that it was indeed formed in a rotational-fission event.
    Icarus 08/2014; 243. DOI:10.1016/j.icarus.2014.08.010 · 2.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Hilda asteroids and Jupiter Trojans are two low-albedo (p$_{\rm v}$ ~ 0.07) populations for which the Nice model predicts an origin in the primordial Kuiper Belt region. However, recent surveys by WISE and the Spitzer Space Telescope (SST) have revealed that ~2% of these objects possess high albedos (p$_{\rm v}$ > 0.15), which might indicate interlopers - that is, objects not formed in the Kuiper Belt - among these two populations. Here, we report spectroscopic observations in the visible and/or near-infrared spectral ranges of twelve high-albedo (p$_{\rm v}$ > 0.15) Hilda asteroids and Jupiter Trojans. These twelve objects have spectral properties similar to those of the low- albedo population, which suggests a similar composition and hence a similar origin for low- and high-albedo Hilda asteroids and Jupiter Trojans. We therefore propose that most high albedos probably result from statistical bias or uncertainties that affect the WISE and SST measurements. However, some of the high albedos may be true and the outcome of some collision-induced resurfacing by a brighter material that could include water ice. Future work should attempt to investigate the nature of this supposedly bright material. The lack of interlopers in our sample allows us to set an upper limit of 0.4% at a confidence level of 99.7% on the abundance of interlopers with unexpected taxonomic classes (e.g., A-, S-, V-type asteroids) among these two populations.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 07/2014; 568. DOI:10.1051/0004-6361/201424105 · 4.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Regolith x-ray Imaging Spectrometer (REXIS) is a coded-aperture soft x-ray imaging instrument on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to be launched in 2016. The spacecraft will fly to and orbit the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, while REXIS maps the elemental distribution on the asteroid using x-ray fluorescence. The detector consists of a 2×2 array of backilluminated 1k×1k frame transfer CCDs with a flight heritage to Suzaku and Chandra. The back surface has a thin p+-doped layer deposited by molecular-beam epitaxy (MBE) for maximum quantum efficiency and energy resolution at low x-ray energies. The CCDs also feature an integrated optical-blocking filter (OBF) to suppress visible and near-infrared light. The OBF is an aluminum film deposited directly on the CCD back surface and is mechanically more robust and less absorptive of x-rays than the conventional free-standing aluminum-coated polymer films. The CCDs have charge transfer inefficiencies of less than 10-6, and dark current of 1e-/pixel/second at the REXIS operating temperature of –60 °C. The resulting spectral resolution is 115 eV at 2 KeV. The extinction ratio of the filter is ~1012 at 625 nm.
    SPIE Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation; 07/2014
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    ABSTRACT: Although petrologic, chemical and isotopic studies of ordinary chondrites and meteorites in general have largely helped establish a chronology of the earliest events of planetesimal formation and their evolution, there are several questions that cannot be resolved via laboratory measurements and/or experiments only. Here we propose rationale for several new constraints on the formation and evolution of ordinary chondrite parent bodies (and by extension most planetesimals) from newly available spectral measurements and mineralogical analysis of main belt S-type asteroids (83 objects) and unequilibrated ordinary chondrite meteorites (53 samples). Based on the latter, we suggest spectral data may be used to distinguish whether an ordinary chondrite was formed near the surface or in the interior of its parent body. If these constraints are correct, the suggested implications include that: i) large groups of compositionally similar asteroids are a natural outcome of planetesimal formation and, consequently, meteorites within a given class can originate from multiple parent bodies; ii) the surfaces of large (up to ~200km) S-type main-belt asteroids expose mostly the interiors of the primordial bodies, a likely consequence of impacts by small asteroids (D<10km) in the early solar system (Ciesla et al. 2013); iii) the duration of accretion of the H chondrite parent bodies was likely short (instantaneous or in less then ~10^5 yr but certainly not as long as 1 Myr); iv) LL-like bodies formed closer to the Sun than H-like bodies, a possible consequence of radial mixing and size sorting of chondrules in the protoplanetary disk prior to accretion.
    The Astrophysical Journal 05/2014; 791(2). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/791/2/120 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We introduce Miniature X-ray Optics to bring highly successful Wolter-I X-ray optics to planetary science within affordable mass, power, and cost constraints.
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    ABSTRACT: We propose to visit an iron core by sending a mission to (16) Psyche, by far the largest exposed iron metal body in the solar system.
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    ABSTRACT: The rotational-fission of a rubble-pile asteroid can result in an "asteroid pair", two un-bound asteroids sharing similar orbits. This mechanism might exposes material that previously had never have been exposed to the weathering conditions of space. Therefore, the surfaces of asteroid pairs offer the opportunity to observe non-weathered fresh spectra. We report near-IR spectroscopic observations of 31 asteroids in pairs. We analyze their spectral slopes, 1 {\mu}m absorption band, taxonomy, and estimate the time elapsed since their separation. Analyzing the 19 S-complex objects in our sample, we find two fresh Q-type asteroids that are the first of their kind to be observed in the main-belt over the full visible and near-IR range. This solidly demonstrates that Q-type objects are not limited to the NEA population. The pairs in our sample present a range of fresh and weathered surfaces with no clear evidence for a correlation with the ages of the pairs. However, our sample includes old pairs (1 to 2 My) that present low spectral slopes. This illustrates a timescale of at least ~2 My before an object develops high spectral slope that is typical for S-type asteroids. We discuss mechanisms that explain the existence of weathered pairs with young dynamical ages and find that the "secondary fission" model (Jacobson & Scheeres 2011) is the most robust with our observations since: 1) the secondary members in our sample present fresh parameters that tend to be fresher than their weathered primaries; 2) most of the fresh pairs in our sample have low size ratios between the secondary and the primary; 3) 33% of the primaries in our sample are fresh, similar to the prediction set by this model; 4) known satellites orbit two of the pairs in our sample with low size ratio and fresh surface; 5) there is no correlation between the weathering state and the primary shape as predicted by other models.
    Icarus 01/2014; 233. DOI:10.1016/j.icarus.2014.01.014 · 2.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Very red featureless asteroids (spectroscopic D-types) are common among Jupiter Trojans, Hildas, and the outer main belt, and are thought to have formed in the outer solar system. Dynamical models of planetary migration and orbital drift by the Yarkovsky effect predict these D-types could have been transported as close to the sun as the middle main belt, but not closer. We detect D-types in the inner main belt, where they are not expected, through follow-up observations of 13 D-type candidates as determined by SDSS colors. Near-infrared spectroscopic measurements were taken using SpeX on the IRTF. Known inner belt D-types range in diameter from roughly 7 to 30 kilometers. Based on these detections we estimate there are ˜100 inner belt D-types with diameters between 2.5 and 20km. The total mass of inner belt D-types is 4x10^16kg which represents 0.01% of the mass of the inner belt (note Vesta alone accounts for 2/3 of the inner belt mass). Dynamical models have yet to show how D-types could penetrate into the inner reaches of the Main Belt.
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    Edward Cloutis, R.P. Binzel, M.J. Gaffey
    Elements 01/2014; 10:25-30. · 3.16 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Very red featureless asteroids (spectroscopic D-types) are expected to have formed in the outer solar system far from the sun. They comprise the majority of asteroids in the Jupiter Trojan population, and are also commonly found in the outer main belt and among Hildas. The first evidence for D-types in the inner and middle parts of the main belt was seen in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). Here we report follow-up observations of SDSS D-type candidates in the near-infrared. Based on follow up observations of 13 SDSS D-type candidates, we find a ~20% positive confirmation rate. Known inner belt D-types range in diameter from roughly 7 to 30 kilometers. Based on these detections we estimate there are ~100 inner belt D-types with diameters between 2.5 and 20km. The lower and upper limits for total mass of inner belt D-types is 2x$10^{16}$ kg to 2x$10^{17}$ kg which represents 0.01% to 0.1% of the mass of the inner belt. The inner belt D-types have albedos at or above the upper end typical for D-types which raises the question as to whether these inner belt bodies represent only a subset of D-types, they have been altered by external factors such as weathering processes, or if they are compositionally distinct from other D-types. All D-types and candidates have diameters less than 30km, yet there is no obvious parent body in the inner belt. Dynamical models have yet to show how D-types originating from the outer solar system could penetrate into the inner reaches of the Main Belt under current scenarios of planet formation and subsequent Yarkovsky drift.
    Icarus 12/2013; 229. DOI:10.1016/j.icarus.2013.11.026 · 2.84 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

6k Citations
822.52 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1989–2015
    • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
      • Department of Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2006–2014
    • Observatoire de Paris
      Lutetia Parisorum, Île-de-France, France
  • 2010
    • Institut de Mécanique Céleste et de Calcul des Éphémérides
      Lutetia Parisorum, Île-de-France, France
  • 2008
    • European Space Agency
      • Research and Scientific Support Department
      Noordwijk-Binnen, South Holland, Spain
  • 1994–2006
    • The University of Arizona
      • • Department of Astronomy
      • • Department of Planetary Sciences
      Tucson, Arizona, United States
  • 2003
    • NASA
      Вашингтон, West Virginia, United States
  • 1998
    • The University of Winnipeg
      • Department of Geography
      Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
    • Cornell College
      Cornell, Wisconsin, United States
  • 1995
    • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
      • Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
      Troy, New York, United States
  • 1993
    • Adam Mickiewicz University
      Posen, Greater Poland Voivodeship, Poland
  • 1987–1990
    • Planetary Science Institute
      Tucson, Arizona, United States
  • 1983–1988
    • University of Texas at Austin
      • Department of Astronomy
      Austin, Texas, United States