Meers Oppenheim

Professor of Astronomy

  • Title Professor of Astronomy
  • Office CAS 517
  • Phone (617) 353-6139
  • Education 1995 Ph.D. Cornell University (Electrical Engineering, Space Plasma Physics Group)
    1990 M.Eng. Cornell University
    1984 B.S. Cornell University

Research Interests: Computational and theoretical space plasma physics; dynamics of the ionosphere and solar atmosphere; particle-wave interactions in plasmas; physics of meteor trails

Curriculum Vitae 2018

Professor Oppenheim studies space plasma physics using supercomputer simulations, theory, and data. He works on a range of topics, including ionospheric and solar collisional plasmas, particle-wave interactions, and the physics of meteor trails. In 2016, he has been working to incorporate the important effects of ionospheric turbulence into planetary scale simulations of the coupled magnetosphere, ionosphere and atmosphere. He has also been trying to model wave heating of the solar chromosphere. Most recently, he has also been working on understanding the effects of UV photoelectrons on the ionosphere and their observational consequences. Improving our understanding of these systems enables us to better characterize energy flows in the upper atmosphere.

For the last 20 years, Dr. Oppenheim has been studying the physics of meteors. Every day, many tons of material hits the Earth’s atmosphere moving faster than 11km/s, mostly in the form of particles smaller than a grain of sand. While larger particles create visible meteors, the more common small ones appear only on radar screens. These particles tell us about the distribution of small particle both within and outside our solar system, Further, they add metals and dust to our upper atmosphere modifying atmospheric chemistry and create a threat to spacecraft. We are developing theories of meteor evolution from their ablation through their turbulent diffusion into the atmosphere and using these theories to study meteoroids and the atmosphere.

Former Ph.D. Students:

Lars Dyrud, Astronomy Ph.D., 2004: Contributed broadly to space physics and started a company.  He continues to work in industy.

Sigrid Close, Astronomy Ph.D. 2004: Professor at Stanford

Marcos Diaz, ECE Ph.D. 2010; Professor at the University of Chile

Elizabeth Fucetola, Astronomy Ph.D, 2012; Technical Staff, Lincoln National Labs

Chad Madsen, Astronomy Ph.D, 2017; Astronomer at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Matthew Young, Astronomy Ph.D. 2019; Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of New Hampshire

EXAMPLE SIMULATIONS: Massively Parallel 3D Particle-in-Cell Plasma Simulations (better living through simulation…):



Movie of Simulated Acoustic Type Plasma Density Wave in the Earth’s Electrojet

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