Michael Busch

Michael Busch
Research Scientist
PhD Planetary Science, Caltech 2010
Curriculum Vitae: 
Remote Sensing / Planetary Astronomy

I primarily study near-Earth asteroids, using radio and radar techniques.  I have particular interests in the shapes, spin states, internal structures, and histories of individual objects - especially spacecraft mission targets and potential Earth impactors. 

One object I've 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, I transmit using the planetary radars at Arecibo Observatory and NASA's Deep Space Network Goldstone facility and receive with either those or with a number of other radio telescopes.   I collaborate with scientists at Arecibo, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, at UCLA, at the University of Maine, and at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.  I also work 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.

I also have side projects on martian dust storms and on SETI message design.  The latter focuses on the currently-theoretical question of making a message readily intelligible to any alien astronomers who may see it.



I received my BS in physics and astronomy at the University of Minnesota in 2005.  I went to Caltech for grad school, where I had the fortune to be advised by the late Steve Ostro and by Shri Kulkarni, and to have a graduate fellowship through the Hertz Foundation.  I completed my PhD in planetary science in 2010, and did postdocs at UCLA and at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory - under the Jansky Fellows program - before starting as a research scientist at SETI in September 2013.

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Spin States of Near-Earth Asteroids From Radar Speckle Tracking

We have developed a new technique, radar speckle tracking, using the Arecibo and Goldstone radars and elements of the Very Long Baseline Array and the Jansky Very Large Array to rapidly and uniquely determine asteroid pole directions and spin rates. We propose to make speckle tracking a routine part of the current NEA radar observing campaign, to measure the spin states, including the pole directions, of roughly 20 more NEAs over a two-year period.