Europa Clipper Mission
I am a Co-Investigator on the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (Europa-UVS), one of nine instruments on NASA's Europa Clipper mission that will explore Jupiter's icy moon, Europa. Europa Clipper will assess the habitability of the ocean water that lies beneath the moon's icy shell. Europa-UVS is the "plume hunter" instrument of the mission.
As a co-chair for the Composition Working Group for the project, I work with all of the team members to ensure that we leverage the strengths of each instrument to best understand what materials make up Europa's surface, interior, and atmosphere.
In anticipation of the mission, I study Europa using the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). I lead a project using HST observations of Europa in the UV to better understand the surface composition of the moon, and I am a co-investigator on a project that uses the HST to look for additional indications of water vapor plumes.
As a graduate student at the University of Central Florida, I worked with Dr. Joshua Colwell and the Cassini Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) team, studying the rings of Saturn. I measured the smallest icy particles that make up the rings (dust-sized particles) using a technique called an occultation: we watch the Sun or a star go behind the rings and see how the light passing through the rings is affected. This can tell us about the sizes and the composition of the ring particles. I was recently selected to lead a new NASA project that will use all of the solar occultation observations from the entire mission to find the tiniest particles in the rings.
My thesis work linked the detection of micron-size dust in Saturn's F ring using UVIS with visible images of energetic collisions in the ring and placed lower limits on the particle sizes of Saturn's outer A ring.
Asteroid Radar Observations, the Arecibo Observatory
In 2008 I began my first research project as an intern at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico through the National Science Foundation's Research for Undergraduate Experience (REU) program. I used radar observations and optical light curve measurements of the first known triple near-Earth asteroid system, 2001 SN263, to create computer models of the shapes of the central asteroid and its two moons.
I am in the process of modeling additional asteroids using the radar observations with #TeamRadar.
Radar observations of near-Earth asteroids drastically improve our knowledge of the trajectory of the asteroids, enabling us to determine if they pose any risk of impacting Earth.
Sharing the science of the Arecibo Observatory
The Arecibo Observatory enables unique and exciting research in the fields of planetary science, astronomy, and space & atmospheric science. To communicate the outstanding science and education efforts of the observatory to the science community, a team of us release a quarterly Arecibo Newsletter. Check them out here!
Fall Newsletter 2020
Summer Newsletter 2020
Spring Newsletter 2020
Winter Newsletter 2019
Asteroids in the Ultraviolet and Infrared
I am interested in determining the composition of asteroids, particularly of the class of objects thought to be the metallic cores of disrupted asteroids (M-type asteroids). I am leading a project to observe the asteroid 16 Psyche - the target of the NASA Psyche mission - in the ultraviolet using the Hubble Space Telescope. I am also participating on a SOFIA survey of several other M-type asteroids.
Other Research Interests
I am excited to study almost any object in the Solar System! I have participated in a study of the Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69 - target of the New Horizon's extended mission - using HST stellar occultation observations. I have also assisted on projects studying Jupiter's other large satellites: Io, Callisto, and Ganymede.
In college, I participated in an NSF REU internship at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in La Serena, Chile, studying an accretion-powered millisecond pulsar using the 4-meter Blanco telescope.
Quick Links to Publications
- HST Observations of Asteroid (16) Psyche in the UV (Becker et al., 2020)
- Ganymede’s far-ultraviolet reflectance: constraining impurities in the surface ice (Molyneux et al. 2020)
- Io's Atmosphere Silhouetted by Jupiter Lyman-α. (Retherford et al., 2019)
- Probing the Hill Sphere of (486958) 2014 MU69 II. Hubble Space Telescope Fine Guidance Sensors Observations during the 2018 August 4 Stellar Occultation (Kammer et al., 2019)
- Io's Atmosphere Silhouetted by Jupiter Lyman-α (Retherford et. al, 2019)
- UVIS Ring Stellar Occultations 2.0, CO-SR-UVIS-OCC-V2.0 (Colwell et al., 2019)
- The Far-UV Albedo of Europa from HST Observations (Becker et al., 2018)
- Cassini UVIS Solar occultations by Saturn’s F ring and the detection of collision-produced micron-sized dust (Becker et al., 2018)
- Probing the Hill Sphere of (486958) 2014 MU69: HST FGS Observations during the 2017 July 17 Stellar Occultation (Kammer et al., 2018)
- New Constraints on Ganymede’s hydrogen corona: Analysis of Lyman-alpha emissions observed by HST/STIS between 1998 and 2014 (Alday et al., 2017)
- Detection of a hydrogen corona at Callisto (Roth et al., 2017)
- Detection of a Hydrogen Corona in HST Lyman Alpha images of Europa in transit of Jupiter. (Roth et al., 2017).
- Characterizing the Particle Size Distribution of Saturn's A Ring with Cassini UVIS Occultation Data (Becker et al., 2016)
- Physical modeling of triple near-Earth Asteroid (153591) 2001 SN263 from radar and optical light curve observations (Becker et al., 2015)