Rocks From Space: Asteroid Day - June 30, 2016

Asteroid Day

SETI Institute scientists Franck MarchisMichael Busch, and Peter Jenniskins are interested in space rocks. They study everything from asteroids the size of mountains to bits of gravel shed by melting comets. One question is what happens when Earth collides with these rocks? Beyond the disaster scenarios like the death of the dinosaurs, we learn about our solar system by collecting fallen space rocks - meteorites - and observing shooting stars - meteors - when space rocks burn up in our atmosphere. Want to learn more? On June 30, there is a world-wide celebration of space rocks: Asteroid Day

The California Academy of Sciences is holding an all-day event in San Francisco. For information about the event, visit

Franck Marchis
Exoplanets Research Thrust Chair, Senior Scientist

Over the past 15 years, Franck Marchis has dedicated his research to the study of our solar system using mainly ground-based telescopes equipped with adaptive optics. The solar system is characterized by considerable diversity of its constituent bodies. Franck Marchis’ first involvement in the study of this diversity started in 1996 while working at the UNAM Astronomy Department in Mexico City. He made the first ground-based observations of the volcanoes on the jovian moon Io, using the first Adaptive Optics (AO) systems available on the European Southern Observatory (ESO) 3.6 m telescope at Chile’s La Silla Observatory. After a brief stay in London and four years in Chile at ESO, he completed his PhD in 2000 at a French university (Toulouse III) even as he has conducted his research in these three countries. His doctoral research described the application of adaptive optics to the study of the solar system. More Info.

Michael Busch
Research Scientist

One object Michael Busch has worked on, 4179 Toutatis, was the target of a flyby by the Chinese Chang'e 2 spacecraft in late 2012.  Asteroid missions by JAXA and NASA have also selected objects previously observed with radar, to reduce mission risk.  Longer term, other radar targets may be destinations for human missions, either on their current orbits or brought back to Earth-Moon space as part of NASA's Asteroid Initative. When doing radar observations, he transmits using the planetary radars at Arecibo Observatory and NASA's Deep Space Network Goldstone facility and receives with either those or with a number of other radio telescopes. He collaborates with scientists at Arecibo, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, at UCLA, at the University of Maine, and at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.  He also works with an extensive community of optical and infrared asteroid observers, and with a number of aerospace engineers - most particularly Dan Scheeres' group at the University of Colorado Boulder.  More Info.

Peter Jenniskens
Senior Research Scientist

Peter currently runs the NASA-sponsored Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance (CAMS) project  in northern California, which aims to verify some of the 300+ meteor showers in the IAU Working List that need confirmation. Sixty video security cameras film the skies over the San Francisco Bay Area. Each confirmed shower identifies past activity from one of the many Near Earth Asteroids that have been discovered in recent years. He is famous for identifying the parent body of the Quadrantid shower, a minor planet called 2003 EH1, which led to a small renaissance in finding parent bodies of our meteor showers. CAMS has already confirmed several showers and discovered a new shower, the February eta Draconids, caused by the trail of dust from a potentially hazardous long-period comet. More: More Info.