Current Projects


Many of BU’s CSP PASS team members are involved with analyzing MAVEN data. MAVEN includes a remote sensing Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument. The IUVS instrument operates in a number of modes that include using an echelle grating. IUVS Echelle observations allow for high resolution measurements that can separate the contributions of emission lines such as deuterium and hydrogen Lyman-alpha, as well as oxygen 1304 Angstrom triplet lines and oxygen 1356 Angstrom forbidden doublet lines. With this capability, MAVEN IUVS echelle observations are used to analyze the variations of water isotopes and trends in the properties of water components.

For more information on the MAVEN research being done at the CSP, click here, or visit their website.

Planetary Atmospheres and Space Sciences Group

We are a research group at Boston University studying the Aurorae on Jupiter and Saturn as well as Venus and Mars and the escape of their atmospheres into space. The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) allows us to take beautiful images of the Aurorae on the giant planets. A sounding rocket carrying an ultraviolet echelle spectrograph that we designed and built will allow us to study the escape of the upper atmosphere of Venus. We also participate in the MAVEN mission to study the escape of the martian atmosphere from orbit about Mars.

For information on who we are and how to contact us, please visit our Group and Contact pages.

The BU Imaging Science Laboratory

The ISL Team uses various imaging techniques to study a wide range of interesting atmospheric phenomena on the Earth and on other planets in our solar system.

The group takes and processes a lot of images dealing with optical features in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, and in the atmospheres of planets, moons, and comets. They also do modeling studies and many data analysis projects—portraying results using computer-generated images.They employ all-sky imagers and spectrographs for terrestrial atmospheric studies and two small telescopes (4″ and 20″) for planetary work. Their instruments are designed and built here at BU and stationed as nearby as Westford, MA as well as in many other countries. Their specialty is taking pictures of things you cannot see.

For more information on the Imaging Science Lab and their work, please visit their website.

Research Personnel

Professor Emeritus John Clarke (AST)

Planetary atmospheres; UV astrophysics; FUV instruments for remote observations.
Our research is centered on studying the upper atmospheres of the planets by remote sensing of UV light from the atoms and molecules. We hope to learn about the nature of the interaction of the atmospheres with the space environment, e.g. auroral processes on the giant planets and the escape of water into space from the atmospheres of Mars and Venus. Toward this goal we use the Hubble Space Telescope for occasional high resolution images and spectra of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Mars, and Venus. We are also part of the NASA MAVEN mission in orbit about Mars, with our contribution being the high spectral resolution echelle channel in the IUVS instrument. We have also employed a sounding rocket experiment for observations of Jupiter and Venus.

View Professor John Clarke’s Profile Here


Assistant Professor Chuanfei Dong (AST)

Star-Terrestrial Planet Interactions in Our Solar System and Beyond; Magnetic Reconnection and Turbulence; Wave-Particle Interaction; Physics-informed Machine Learning; High Intensity Laser-Plasma Interaction.

Professor Dong joined the Department of Astronomy and Center for Space Physics at Boston University as an Assistant Professor in Spring 2023. Prior to that, he was a Staff Scientist at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (.gov) – a DOE National Laboratory managed by Princeton University and an Affiliated Research Scholar at the Department of Astrophysical Sciences, Princeton University.

View Assistant Professor Chuanfei Dong’s Profile Here


Senior Research Scientist Majd Mayyasi

Understanding water loss at Mars from analyzing spectral signatures of D and H, modeling the ionosphere of Mars to learn new things about its plasma environment and its response to various internal and external triggers, and characterizing sources, variability and the extent of exospheric lunar sodium.

View Dr. Majd Mayyasi’s website here.


Professor Michael Mendillo (AST)

Space physics; planetary atmospheres; observations and models.

Our low-light-level instrumentation capabilities extend our program to studies of the escaping atmosphere on planets, moons and comets in the solar system. Using emissions from sodium atoms, we map the vast patterns of escaping gases on our Moon, from Mercury, from two of Jupiter’s moons (Io and Europa), and from comets. Additional studies (not involving our optical instruments) include the analysis of observations made by many satellite programs (e.g., Cassini at Saturn, Juno at Jupiter, and MESSENGER at Mercury), and modeling of planetary ionospheres. We are currently major participants in NASA’s MAVEN mission at Mars, using satellite data, radio occultation observations and modeling to study ionosphere structure and escape.

Our team includes faculty, post-doctoral associates, staff scientists, research fellows, graduate students and undergraduate research assistants.

View Professor Michael Mendillo’s Profile Here


Research Assistant Professor Luke Moore (AST)

Modeling and observations of planetary atmospheres, with a focus on the upper atmospheres of the giant planets and on the coupling between atmospheres and the space environment.

Current active research topics include: (1) understanding Saturn’s upper atmosphere and its interactions with the ring; (2) studying global IR and UV emissions at Jupiter, focused on supporting the Juno mission; (3) using a new-commissioned instrument called the Rapid Imaging Planetary Spectrograph (RIPS) to study extended emissions around objects such as Mercury, the Moon, and the Galilean satellites; (4) theoretical studies of the H3+ ion, present in all gas giant ionospheres, in order to improve the quality of atmospheric information retrieved from H3+ observations and to make predictions for detection of H3+ at exoplanets; and (5) modeling of planetary and moon ionospheres.

View Dr. Luke Moore’s Website Here


Senior Research Scientist Marissa Vogt

Planetary magnetic fields, Ionospheres, and Aurora

I am a Research Scientist in the BU Center for Space Physics. I work with data from the Galileo mission to Jupiter (1996-2003) and NASA’s Juno mission, which has been in a polar orbit around Jupiter since 2016, to study Jupiter’s magnetosphere and aurora. I am also a member of the science team for the MAVEN mission to Mars, which has been in orbit around Mars since September 2014.

View Dr. Marissa Vogt’s Profile Here


Professor Paul Withers (AST)

Planetary atmospheres and ionospheres; radio science instruments; accelerometer instruments

Our group’s interests lie in planetary atmospheres, particularly upper atmospheres, and ionospheres. An ionosphere is a weakly ionized plasma embedded within an upper atmosphere, generally produced by solar photoionization. The properties of an upper atmosphere and ionosphere are determined by chemistry, energetics, dynamics, coupling to the lower atmosphere and solid surface below, and coupling to the solar wind and magnetosphere above. Upper atmospheres and ionospheres form highly-integrated systems in which common processes operating in different environments produce different outcomes.

They aim to characterize how atmospheres and ionospheres behave, then understand the physical processes responsible for these behaviors. Their focus is generally on acquiring and interpreting spacecraft observations of these environments, with numerical models playing a supporting role.

Involvement in spacecraft instrument teams enables the research group to maintain a long-term focus on a scientific question and strongly influence how that question is investigated. It also offers superb opportunities for undergraduate and graduate research projects. Assoc. Prof. Withers has been involved in over a dozen spacecraft radio science and accelerometer investigations and aims to be involved in many more in the future.

View Professor Paul Withers’ Profile Here