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Michael F. A'Hearn

Michael F. A'Hearn

Institution: University of Maryland
Role: Principal Investigator

Prof. A'Hearn, an astronomer at the University of Maryland, has developed a variety of observational techniques to study the structure and composition of comets. He and his students and collaborators have developed a system for surveying abundances in many comets. They have also developed techniques for determining sizes of cometary nuclei combining optical and infrared measurements. He has carried out spectroscopy at many wavelengths to study particular molecules in comets. Asteroid 3192 was named after Dr. A'Hearn for his contributions to the field of cometary science. As the Principal Investigator for the Deep Impact mission, Prof. A'Hearn is responsible for the mission's overall success in meeting its science objectives.

B.S., Physics, Boston College, 1961
Ph.D., Astronomy, University of Wisconsin, 1966

Professional Experience:

1966-72   Assistant Professor, University of Maryland
1972-82   Associate Professor, University of Maryland
1982 -   Professor, University of Maryland
1985-87   Acting Director, Astronomy Program, University of Maryland
1991-93   Acting Chairman, Department of Astronomy, University of Maryland
2000 -   Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland

Professional Societies:
American Astronomical Society
Division of Planetary Sciences - American Astronomical Society
Sigma Pi Sigma
American Association for the Advancement of Science (Fellow)
Institute of Navigation
International Astronomical Union

Asteroid 3192 A'Hearn, named in 1986 in honor of contributions to cometary science
Elected Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science

Current Committees and Services:

American Astronomical Society
2001-2004   Member, Publications Board
Association of University for Research in Astronomy
2000-   Member, Board of Directors
1994-   Member, Observatories Council (vice-Chairman 1998-2000; Chairman 2000-)
International Astronomical Union
1994-   Member, Working Group on Near Earth Objects (WG NEO)
1997-   Small Bodies names Committee (SBNC) (Chairman 1997-2000)
2000-   Division III Board
2000-   Working Group on Cartographic Coordinates of Planets and Satellites
Journal Editing
1988-   Member, Editorial Advisory Board, International Comet Quarterly
1993-   Associate Editor, Earth, Moon and Planets
Lowell Observatory
1998-   Member, Trustee's Advisory Committee
National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center
2000-2003   Member, Visiting Committee
NASA Panels
1999-   Member, Planetary Protection Task Force
1999-   Member, Inter-Agency Coordinating group (NASA-ESA-IKI-ISAS), Task Group 1 (Small Bodies)

Major Research Activities

  • Principal Investigator for the Deep Impact mission to excavate a crater on a cometary nucleus
  • Manager, Small Bodies Node of NASA's Planetary Data System
  • Research on comets and other small bodies of the solar system using observations at all wavelengths, from extreme ultraviolet to radio
  • More than 100 paper in referred journals
Biographical details contained on these pages were correct during the Deep Impact mission which ended in 2006. Several scientists from Deep Impact are now working on related missions such as EPOXI and Stardust-NExT.

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