Current Research

My research covers a broad range of topics in planetary astronomy and planetary science including:

  • Probing the Solar System’s Small Body populations in particular focusing on the Kuiper belt and Inner Oort Cloud
  • Utilizing crowdsourcing/citizen science to tackle big data challengesin planetary astronomy
  • Studying the seasonal winds and atmosphere/surface interactions of Mars’ South Pole

Preparing for Solar System Science with the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope

Over its 10 year lifespan, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will catalog over 5 million Main Belt asteroids, almost 300,000 Jupiter Trojans, over 100,000 NEOs, over 40,000 KBOs, tens of interstellar objects, and over 10,000 comets. LSST will not only be a dicovery machine for Solar System small objectes, it will image most of these bodies hundreds of times in multiple optical filters enabling spare light curves/rotational variability estimates, meausrements surface colors, and cometary activity/collision searches. With the LSST Solar System Science Collaboration (SSSC), I am working towards methods and tools to analyze future LSST data, as well as helping to ensure the planned survey strategy that will maxmize discovering moving objects throughout the Solar System.

Colours of the Outer Solar System Survey Col-OSSOS

The sea of icy planetesimals beyond Neptune in the Kuiper belt are the remanent building blocks left after the formation of the Solar System. For small (> 22 mag) Kuiper belt objects (KBOs), we rely on what photometric colors reveal by proxy about their surface composition. Colours of the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (Col-OSSOS) is probing distant Kuiper belt object (KBO) surface properties via near simultaneous g,r, and J photometry. from Gemini North with additional u-band imaging from CFHT. Col-OSSOS is creating an unprecedented dataset combining surface color information, orbital dynamics, and population statistics to probe the history of the Kuiper belt and the late stages of Neptune's migration.

Seasonal Processes on the Martian South Polar Region

Mars' south pole is sculpted by the never-ending cycle of freezing and thawing of exposed carbon dioxide ice. In the summer, carbon dioxide jets loft dust and dirt through cracks in the thawing carbon dioxide ice sheet to the surface where winds blow the material into the hundreds of thousands of dark fans observed from orbit. Understanding the direction, frequency, and appearance of these fans (a proxy for the jets) and how varying factors impact these properties, we can better understand the Martian climate and winds. Computers just aren’t good enough to do the required task, but the fans spotted for orbit are easily spotted by the human eye. The Planet Four and Planet Four: Terrains projects are on-going online citizne science proejects collaborating with over 150,000 people around the world. Volunteers map the dark seasonal fans and other surface features carved during by the carbon dioxide gas jets.

Studying Polygonal Ridges on Mars

Slow and steady wind erosion has exposed mineral-filled fractures as networks of intersecting ridges or polygonal ridges on Mars. These fesatures can form in several ways and by studying their properties and distribution on the Martian surface we can explore the conditions in Mars' past. Automated routines struggle with identifying these features. The Planet Four: Ridges citizen science project enlits the public to map polygonal, spider-web-like ridge patterns in images from the Context Camera aboard Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.