Excitement builds for OSIRIS-REx launch

OSIRIS-REx is NASA's New-Frontiers-class mission to visit a primitive asteroid and return a sample of it to Earth. Read about some of the UCF faculty and students who are involved with this exciting mission. The spacecraft is scheduled to launch from KSC on September 8.



Graduate Student wins Best Poster Competition at International Conference

Our graduate student, Jenna Crowell, has won the Best Student Poster Competition in the Planetary Science section at the recent Asia Oceania Geosciences Society annual conference, held in Beijing. Congratulations Jenna! She presented her research on thermophysical modeling of near-Earth asteroid 1627 Ivar.



Congratulations Dr. Tracy Becker!

Congratulations to our grad student expert on Saturn's rings who successfully defended her dissertaiton in December. Tracy is now starting a postdoc at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, TX.


Congratulations Dr. Patricio Cubillos and Dr. Jasmina Blecic!

Our two resident grad student exoplanet experts have successfully defended their dissertations and have left us for postdocs. Patricio is now in the planetary department at the University of Graz, Austria, and Jasmina is now in Abu Dhabi working at NYU's campus there.


Congratulations Dr. Kelsey Hargrove!

Kelsey Hargrove, has successfully defended her  PhD dissertation on near- and mid-IR characterization of primitive asteroids. Congratulations Dr. Hargrove!



UCF invades DPS

The 46th Meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences -- the premiere planetary science conference in the U.S. and arguably in the world -- is happening this week in Tucson, Arizona. There are 21 UCF-led presentations at this meeting. 75% of our graduate students wilil be there to present talks and posters.



Congratulations Dr. Nate Lust!

Nate Lust, one of our graduate students, has successfully defended his PhD dissertation on using new mathematical and statistical tehcniques to improve the signal-to-noise ratios and thus the interpretation of photometric data.  Congratulations Dr. Lust!



Knights Observe the Moon Night

Robinson Observatory sponsored the make-up date for the International Observe the Moon Night. This was originally scheduled for September 6th but the event was clouded out. The make-up date had clear skies and the volunteers gave great views of the night sky to about 50 folks, both students and the general public.




Congratulations Dr. Emily Kramer!

Emily Kramer, one of our graduate students, has successfully defended her PhD dissertation. She will be moving on to a NASA Postdoctoral position at JPL to continue to do wonderful science. Congratulations Dr. Kramer!



UCF to run Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute

NASA has selected UCF to host one of nine new "Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institutes". This is a five-year, multi-million dollar institute that will be led by Prof. Dan Britt, and will involve many additional personnel at UCF as well as researchers and collaborators around the world. A description of the institutes can be found in the NASA press release. There's also an article in Florida Today!



UCF Astronomers Bring the Moon to the Public

A team of UCF planetary scientists set up telescopes at Knights Plaza to participate in International Observe the Moon Night, a global event designed to bring the wonders of the Moon and the night sky to as many people as possible! UCF's event was one of hundreds happening that day around the world. About 100 members of the UCF community and general public were able to see craters on the Moon, the phase of Venus, and sunspots on the Sun. The team included Prof. Yan Fernandez, Dr. Addie Dove, Jenna Jones, Tracy Becker, and Allison Bratcher.



UCF Planetary Scientists Invade DPS!

This week in Denver, CO, the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society is holding their 45th Annual Meeting. An astounding TWENTY-TWO UCFers are giving presentations at that conference, including undergraduates, graduate students, researchers, and faculty. There's more info by checking out the UCF press release.




UCF Astronomer is getting ready for the arrival of Comet ISON with fingers crossed.

Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) is on its first trip into the inner Solar System since it was formed 4.5 BILLION years ago. The comet could become the 'Comet of the Century' but it could just as well be a big dud. Read more about it in this press release featuring UCF's own Yan Fernandez.




Release of American Physical Society's short film about UCF Physics

Some of our astronomers are highlighted in this 6.5-minute film that summarizes many of the terrific research programs going on here in our Physics Department. The film was created in conjunction with the American Physical Society and was formally released to the public at the recent APS March Meeting.



UCF Astronomers appear on NBC

In a "Science Behind the News" segment, Joe Harrington and Csaba Palotai discuss their research on how an atmosphere responds to the impact of a comet or asteroid. Very timely stuff given the recent DA14 flyby and the Chelyabinsk bolide! You can watch the 5 minute segment here.



Hundreds Commemorate Rare Asteroid Encounter

Over 800 people attended our public event commemorating the flyby of asteroid 2012 DA14 past Earth on February 15. The event schedule is here, and read about how the Orlando Sentinel covered the event here.



2013 Southeast Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics Held at UCF

The Southeast Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (SCUWP) is a three-day conference for undergraduate physics majors in the southeastern United States. The 2013 conference is happening at UCF's Student Union from the evening of Friday January 18th to the afternoon of Sunday January 20th. Check the conference website for more info.



International Expert Explains Asteroids 'Real' Threat to Earth

Join our very own Prof. Humberto Campins at the Orlando Science Center on Saturday, Dec. 1 for a hands-on program that delivers the real story when it comes to asteroids that threaten Earth. Find out more details about the event at UCFToday.



UCF Experiment Wins Free trip to the International Space Station

A University of Central Florida experiment that could help explain how planets formed in our solar system has won a free ride to the International Space Station in 2013. Physics professor Joshua Colwell’s experiment is one of eight winners of the Space Florida International Space Station Research Competition sponsored by Space Florida and NanoRacks. Read the full story at COSNews.



Whizzing Asteroid Turns Rocket Scientists' Heads

International leaders in asteroid and comet research are gathering at the University of Central Florida in Orlando Friday, Feb. 15, for a special “viewing party” that will climax with asteroid 2012 DA14 zipping between Earth and orbiting communication satellites (within 14,000 miles of Earth). The asteroid, the size of a city block, will squeeze by Earth’s atmosphere and the geostationary satellites orbiting the planet. It will be the closest fly by in history. Read the full story at COSNews.




UCF Discovers Two Nearby Sub-Earth-Sized Exoplanet Candidates

The UCF Exoplanets Group is pleased to announce the discovery of two new transiting planet candidates (UCF-1.01 and UCF-1.02) orbiting the red-dwarf star GJ 436.  The objects are 2/3 the diameter of Earth, making them the closest rocky exoplanets and the only ones within 100 light years.  They were found by UCF Graduate Student Kevin Stevenson while he was analyzing Spitzer Space Telescope data for GJ 436b, a Neptune-sized planet in the same system. 

Read the entire story at : UCF-1: Two Tiny Exoplanet Candidates


Bake Sale in Support of Solar System Exploration

Several students and faculty in the Planetary Sciences Group participated in an event designed to raise awareness about NASA's budget for planetary exploration. The event was picked up by media outlets in Orlando and all over the country (for example).



Transit of Venus Event

On June 5, Venus will pass directly between Earth and the Sun. This alignment is fairly rare -- this is the last time it will happen until 2117! What we'll see from Earth is a little black spot of Venus slowly make its way across the Sun's face. Robinson Observatory and the Astronomy Society will be setting up telescopes with solar filters on the top of Parking Garage A for the public to see the event. It lasts from 6 pm to 8:15 pm. No need to come right at 6, and no need to stay for the whole event. Also, no need for RSVP. Just show up and take a look! We'll also have eclipse glasses for your to borrow while you're there.



Successful Ph.D. Dissertation Defense: Kevin Stevenson

Congratulations to Kevin Stevenson on the successful defense of his Ph.D. Dissertation.  His dissertation on "DETECTING AND CHARACTERIZING EXOPLANETS: THE GJ 436 AND HD 149026 SYSTEMS" included analyses of over two dozen eclipses and transits of exoplanets in two separate planetary systems, all measured by the Spitzer Space Telescope.  Kevin discovered two planet candidates as well as characterizing the atmospheres of two known planets.  Chapter 1 of the dissertation was published in Nature, while two other papers have been accepted and are under revision, respectively, at The Astrophysical Journal.  Kevin is the second recipient of a Ph.D. in the Physics Department's Planetary Sciences Track.  He was also named to the Order of Pegasus, UCF's highest student honor.  His next mission: exoplanet spectroscopy with Prof. Jacob Bean in a postdoc at the University of Chicago.


Successful Ph.D. Dissertation Defense: Kévin Baillié

Congratulations to Kévin Baillié on the successful defense of his Ph.D. Dissertation on July 7, 2011. His dissertation on "Fine-Scale Structures in Saturn's Rings: Waves, Wakes and Ghosts" included an analysis of stellar occultation data from Cassini and the discovery of more than a dozen new density waves. Kévin is the first recipient of a Ph.D. in the Physics Department's Planetary Sciences Track.



PhD Dissertation Defense: Robert J. Macke, SJ

The dissertation defense of Robert J. Macke, SJ, takes place in MAP 318 at 10:00 am.  The defense is open to the public and begins with a 45-minute presentation of the work.  The thesis is entitled Survey of Meteorite Physical Properties:
Density, Porosity and Magnetic Susceptibility
and includes measurements of over 1200 meteorites from collections around the world.



UCF Winter Workshop 2012, Next-Generation Suborbital Research Conference: Registration Open

Registration is now open for UCF Planetary Science's second Winter Workshop, which is also the second meeting of the Next-Generation Suborbital Research Conference.  The meeting will be held in the UCF Student Union from February 28 - March 2, 2011.  UCF and SwRI are sharing organization of the meeting.  Learn more and register or read the UCF News story.



UCF Professor Daniel Britt Elected to Lead International Planetary Science Society

Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society,
the world's leading and largest professional organization of planetary
scientists, has elected UCF Prof. Daniel Britt to serve as Vice Chair in
2010-2011 and Chair in 2011-2012.  See the UCF News story for more details.



Water Ice and Organics on the Surface of the Asteroid 24 Themis

On the April 29 issue of the journal Nature, UCF faculty Drs. Humberto
Campins and Yanga Fernandez and student Kelsey Hargrove report the
first detection of water ice and organic material on an asteroid. This
discovery has implications on the origin of water, organic molecules,
and life on Earth. See our page for more details.



GJ 436b: Where's the Methane?

UCF Planetary Sciences graduate student Kevin Stevenson is lead author on a paper in the journal Nature that measures the atmospheric content of the Neptune-sized exoplanet GJ 436b.  It is the smallest exoplanet whose composition has been measured.  See our page for more details.



Save the date for Winter Workshop 2011!

Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference to be held in the Pegasus Ballroom on the UCF main campus in Orlando from Monday February 28 - Wednesday March 2, 2011.



UCF Physics Hiring Planetary Faculty

The department invites applications for one or more positions, which may be filled at the senior or junior levels.  See the ad.



ANNOUNCEMENT: UCF Winter WORKSHOP 2010: Exoplanets for Planetary Scientists

University of Central Florida Campus
Orlando, Florida, USA
6-8 January 2010

We have changed the name to reduce confusion: It's not just for students!  This is a research workshop.  The abstract deadline has been extended to 2009-Oct-31.  Special Speakers and Session Leaders include Alan Stern, Eric Gaidos, Renu Malhotra, Adam Showman, Andrew Collier Cameron, and Drake Deming.



Impact on Jupiter!

UCF is hosting a web page to index observations and results related to the impact of a comet on Jupiter on the 19th.  See



FIRST ANNOUNCEMENT: UCF Winter Workshop 2010: Exoplanets for Planetary Scientists

University of Central Florida Campus
Orlando, Florida, USA
6-8 January 2010

This warm winter workshop will bring together experts in exoplanet observation and planetary theory, delivering both the latest research results and school-style talks on applying planetary science to exoplanetary problems.



Planetary Science Researcher Tests Methods for Finding Life on ExtraSolar Planets

UCF Prof. Eduardo Martin was part of a team that used the spectrum of the Earth - reflected from the Moon during a lunar eclipse - to simulate the search for life on extrasolar planets. The study was published today in Nature. Here is the UCF news story.


2009-Jul-20 - 2009-Jul-24

UCF Co-Hosts Brown-Dwarf and Exoplanet Conference in China During Eclipse

New Technologies for Probing the Diversity of Brown Dwarfs and
Exoplanets will be held in Shanghai, China, during the longest solar
eclipse of this century (July 22). UCF Faculty members Eduardo
Martin and Michele Montgomery are organizer and LOC member, respectively.



UCF Student Visiting the Southwest in Search of Meteorites

University of Central Florida graduate student Robert Macke has packed up his car for a three-month road trip in search of meteorites. He will visit collections in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Story at UCF Newsroom


2009-Jan-14 - 2009-Apr-22

UCF Planetary Science Journal Club

Join us in MAP 318 Wednesdays at noon for lunch, a speaker, and informal discussion on a range of planetary topics!



5th Star & Planet Formation Day at UF

The University of Florida in Gainesville, FL, will host the 5th Star &
Planet Formation Day on Friday, January 30, 2009, featuring talks
by Sarah Dodson-Robinson (Spitzer Fellow at JPL), Kaitlin Kratter
(U Toronto), Ruth Murrary-Clay (ITC Fellow at CfA), and Andrew
Youdin (CITA Fellow). There will also be short, informal research
talks and discussion by the UF and UCF groups. Contact Michele
Montgomery if interested in attending.



UCF Physics Professor Experiments in Zero Gravity

Figuring out exactly how asteroids formed and what they can tell us about the origin of the solar system are big questions. University of Central Florida Assistant Professor Josh Colwell is working on solving these mysteries. This month, he had a chance...

Story at UCF Newsroom



UCF Announces Planetary Sciences track in Physics PhD

Starting in Spring 2009, the Physics PhD has a Planetary Sciences
Track. The program balances early involvement in research with a
broad range of coursework to prepare students for research careers.



Source of Geysers on Saturn's Moon May Be Underground Water

Saturn's moon Enceladus may indeed hide an underground reservoir of water. Scientists at Jet Propulsion Lab in California, the University of Colorado and the University of Central Florida in Orlando teamed up to analyze the plumes of water vapor and ice...

Story at UCF Newsroom