Darin Ragozzine

A new Postdoc at the Center for Astrophysics. See my new homepage.

Graduate Student

California Institute of Technology

Planetary Science Department

 

Research

CV

Contact Information

 

 

Research Background:

 

The Kuiper belt is the name of the collection of large icy bodies at the edge of the solar system, orbiting beyond Neptune. The most famous Kuiper belt object (KBO) is Pluto, but there are more than 1000 known. KBOs are also known as Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs), where "trans-Neptunian" in astronomical jargon means "the space beyond Neptune".

 

KBOs are discovered and studied with a variety of techniques, but these all require relatively large telescopes since they are mostly very faint. I work with Mike Brown and study the orbits of these objects: how they go around the sun and how they go around each other when they have moons or satellites, which is pretty often (~20% generally and much higher for large objects). My graduate student colleagues are currently Kris Barkume, who does infrared spectroscopy on the bright KBOs, Emily Schaller, who has worked a variety of KBO-related questions, and Meg Schwamb who has just joined our group and also observes KBOs. See their webpages for more information and explanation of our research. Though I don't personally man the telescopes, I do like to figure out what the meaning of the pictures taken by the telescopes. I would say this makes me an astrophysicist/dynamicist with a specialization in planetary science (or vice versa).

 

My favorite KBO is 2003 EL61, now named Haumea. For many reasons, I think it could be called the most interesting object in the Kuiper belt. One of my main research goals is to figure out the important history and current state of this fast-spinning, non-spherical, ice-covered rock with two moons. Two! They are now named Hi'iaka and Namaka. No other KBO and only a couple of asteroids are known to have two moons. Pluto has three moons and the giant planets have many moons, but EL61's moons are pretty cool since they're both relatively large and appear to be strongly interacting. They were also formed in a huge collision that created a whole family of KBOs in similar orbits. An artist's rendition of the general shape of EL61 and its moons is given to the right.

 

More info on Research Interests:

 

Contact Information:

 

Darin Ragozzine

California Institute of Technology

MC 150-21

Pasadena, CA  91101