Michael Brown is the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy at Caltech and has been on the faculty since 1996. He specializes in the telescopic exploration of our solar system, using facilities on the ground and in space to discovery and study bodies from nearby asteroids, to satellites of giant planets, to the most distant objects in our solar system. He is best known for his discoveries and characterization of most of the largest objects in the Kuiper belt beyond Neptune. Brown was born in Huntsville, Alabama and attended graduated from Princeton University in 1987 before receiving his Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley in 1994. In 2006 Brown was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, and he received the 2012 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics.

Research Interests

Brown uses ground and space based telescopes to both conduct wide-field surveys to discover new objects in our solar system and to perform detailed investigation of individual members of our solar system. He was involved in the discovery of most of the largest objects in the Kuiper belt beyond Neptune, including Eris, the most massive dwarf planet, the discovery of which eventually led to the demotion of Pluto, and Sedna, still the only know member of the region of space beyond the Kuiper belt. In addition to discovering these objects, Brown and his group provided the first analyses of the characteristics and properties of this group of bodies, leading to insights into giant impacts in the outer solar system, loss of atmospheres on dwarf planets, radiation processing of volatile ices, and the formation of dwarf planets. In addition he has studied planetary processes on satellites of the giant planets, including global circulation in Titan's atmosphere, the chemistry of Europa's ocean, and the effects of Io's volcanoes on Jupiter's magnetosphere.

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Primary Section

Section 16: Geophysics

Secondary Section

Section 12: Astronomy