Estela Fernandez-Valenzuela

Estela Fernandez Valenzuela Headshot

Assistant Scientist

Florida Space Institute

Partnership 1 Bldg


Research Groups


Estela Fernández-Valenzuela is a assistant scientist at the Florida Space Institute as part of the Preeminent Postdoctoral program at the University of Central Florida. She completed her degree in Physics at the Complutense University of Madrid. She received a Master’s degree in Astrophysics at the same university while collaborating with the University of Jaén, studying blazars with photometric techniques. Thereafter, she moved to the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía in Granada, where she carried out research activities that led her to her Ph.D. in Physics and Space Science from the University of Granada. Her thesis dealt primarily with the application of photometry at optical wavelengths to the study of trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) and centaurs.

Her research interest is the study of the origin of the Solar System, including how it was formed and which physical processes were responsible for the actual conditions. More precisely, she is interested in the small objects orbiting in the outer part of the Solar System, those called trans-Neptunian objects. She is an expert in the use of photometric techniques to analyze the light curves of these objects. Through this technique, different physical parameters, such as rotational period, shape and density, can be obtained. She is also very interested in the stellar occultation technique, which has been successfully used in the last few years to obtain information on the size and shape of small bodies. This technique enabled the discovery of Haumea’s ring, the first ring observed around a trans-Neptunian object. Estela was a co-author and co-discoverer of this breakthrough. Currently, she is involved in ground-based observations in support of the Lucy mission, which is expected to be launched in October 2021, with the aim of studying the trojan asteroids. Lucy will flyby 6 Jupiter trojans and one main belt asteroid. It will be the first mission to visit these primitive bodies of the Solar System. Additionally, Estela is working on using Spitzer Space Telescope data to study the surface composition of TNOs.

Authors Title Published Date Journal
Stansberry, John A.; Fernandez-Valenzuela, Estela; Rieke, Marcia J.; and 2 coauthors Search for Varuna’s Satellite Jun 2023 JWST Proposal. Cycle 3 , 4541
Pinilla-Alonso, Noemí; Popescu, Marcel; Licandro, Javier; and 7 coauthors Detection of the Irregular Shape of the Southern Limb of Menoetius from Observations of the 2017-2018 Patroclus-Menoetius Mutual Events Dec 2022 The Planetary Science Journal 3, 267
Lister, Tim; Kelley, Michael S. P.; Holt, Carrie E.; and 32 coauthors The LCO Outbursting Objects Key Project: Overview and Year 1 Status Jul 2022 The Planetary Science Journal 3, 173
Marques Oliveira, J.; Sicardy, B.; Gomes-Júnior, A. R.; and 234 coauthors Constraints on the structure and seasonal variations of Triton’s atmosphere from the 5 October 2017 stellar occultation and previous observations Mar 2022 Astronomy and Astrophysics 659, A136
Morgado, B. E.; Sicardy, B.; Braga-Ribas, F.; and 78 coauthors Refined physical parameters for Chariklo’s body and rings from stellar occultations observed between 2013 and 2020 Aug 2021 Astronomy and Astrophysics 652, A141
Fernández-Valenzuela, E.; Pinilla-Alonso, N.; Stansberry, J.; and 12 coauthors Compositional Study of Trans-Neptunian Objects at λ > 2.2 μm Feb 2021 The Planetary Science Journal 2, 10
Fernandez-Valenzuela, Estela; Ragozzine, Darin; Stansberry, John A.; and 4 coauthors Towards a more complete understanding of Haumea’s family tree May 2020 HST Proposal , 16306
Benedetti-Rossi, Gustavo; Santos-Sanz, P.; Ortiz, J. L.; and 50 coauthors The Trans-Neptunian Object (84922) 2003 VS2 through Stellar Occultations Oct 2019 The Astronomical Journal 158, 159
Fernández-Valenzuela, Estela; Ortiz, Jose Luis; Morales, Nicolás; and 6 coauthors The Changing Rotational Light-curve Amplitude of Varuna and Evidence for a Close-in Satellite Sep 2019 The Astrophysical Journal 883, L21