Marc Kuchner
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics Laboratory

Code 667
Greenbelt, MD 20771
Marc.Kuchner at
CV and Publication List

I'm an astrophysicist; I work on both theoretical and observational projects related to directly imaging extrasolar planetary systems. I'm also the Citizen Science Officer for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, helping look after 22 NASA citizen science projects connecting more than 1 million volunteer scientists around the world. Here are some of my personal scientific projects and interests.

Backyard Worlds Logo The Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 citizen science project searches for new planets in the outer solar system and free-floating planets in the solar neighborhood. We have found more than 1200 likely brown dwarfs, a bizzare co-moving brown dwarf pair, and a record-breaking "crystal ball" white dwarf. For the latest project results, see the Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 Blog.

Disk Detective Logo
The Disk Detective citizen science project is scouring the data archive from the WISE all-sky survey to find warm dust around nearby stars: protoplenatary disks and debris disks. Disk Detective volunteers helped discover a new kind of disk, the "Peter Pan" disks. These protoplanetary disks around M stars seem to have retained their primordial gas nearly ten times as long as typical protoplanetary disks. In other words, they won't grow up. For the latest results, see the Disk Detective Blog.

Venus Ring
A hard-to spot ring of Asteroids Co-orbiting with Venus seems to be the most likely source of the dust that follows Venus in its orbit. These asteroids remain in a stable 1:1 resonance with Venus for the lifetime of the solar system. If this analysis is correct, this new ring of asteroids could be a source of dangerous Near-Earth Objects.

Virtual Reality Headset
I'm applying Virtual Reality to help understand Galactic structure. By visualizing Gaia data on nearby stars, we can find new members of young associations and moving groups to help us define the timeline of planet formation. Note: this is not an outreach project! But if you use an HTC Vive and you're inteterstead in collaborating, send me a note.

Carbon Planet Imagining New Kinds of Planets can help us decide where and how to look for extrasolar planets. Extrasolar planets are not necessarily like the ones in the solar system; they may have completely different chemistries, like Water Planets or Carbon Planets . Life on a carbon planet would be through-the-looking-glass. The processes of burning and metabolism on Earth are oxidation (combining things with oxygen); on a carbon planet, these processes would probably be replaced by reduction (combining things with carbon). Artist Lynette Cook created this image of a Carbon Planet.

Vega Disk Model Our Sun sports a handsome disk of zodiacal dust, full of structures due to the dynamical effects of planets. Here is an explanation, with illustrations, of how planets on low-eccentricity orbits make rings and wakes in an optically thin circumstellar dust cloud. Zodiacal dust around other stars is called Exozodiacal Dust.
Debris Disk Animation

This animation shows what a few-jupiter-mass planet on an eccentric orbit (e=0.6) can do to a dust cloud. The solar system doesn't have any such planets, but extrasolar planetary systems often do. Millimeter maps of the debris around Vega show two blobs of emission at different distances from the star which may be the same phenomenon. However, this disk and other Debris Disks may be much more complicated than the solar dust cloud.

Animation of Dust Orbiting Vega
Press Release on Millimeter Maps of Vega
Powerpoint Talk on Resonant Signatures in Debris Disks

Image of Dusty Rings made with ZODIPIC Here is the ZODIPIC package, an IDL program for synthesizing images of exozodiacal clouds. It also has enough tweakable parameters to serve as a general-purpose modeling tool for optically-thin disks. To use it, you may download zodipic to your idl directory. Save the file as "zodipic.2.1.tar". Then type

tar xvf zodipic.2.1.tar

to unpack the files (total about 57K). The README.zodipic file describes how to run the code. The picture above was made by running zodipic twice:

zodipic, fnu1, 1, 0.5, inclination=60, positionangle=-10, ring=1, blob=1, pixnum=256, /noiterate, /nofan
zodipic, fnu2, 1, 0.5, inclination=60, positionangle=-10, ring=1, blob=1, pixnum=256, /noiterate, /nofan, radring=0.72, earthlong=100

NEW! Zodipic Version 2.1.
Includes dust with real optical constants, user-specified dust maps, and more!
See also

Kuchner, M. J., & Serabyn, E. 2001, submitted to ApJ
Powerpoint Talk on ZODIPIC

Telescope at Mt. Palomar On some cloudy nights, I like to write Observing Manuals like this guide to the Palomar 60" CCD Camera.

And here are some of my other Powerpoint Talks

Dude With Diploma I am lucky to work with some talented Graduate Students and Postdocs:

Steven Silverberg Graduate Student, U. Oklahoma, Now a Postdoc at MIT
Chris Stark Graduate Student, U. Maryland Physics Dept. Now a staff scientist at STScI
Daniel Jontof-Hutter Grad. Student, U.M.D. Astronomy
Justin Crepp Graduate Student, U. Florida, Astronomy Dept. Now an assistant professor at the University of Natre Dame.
Erika Nesvold Graduate Student, University of Maryland Baltimore County Physics Dept. Now an astrophysicist and developer at Universe Sandbox
Aki Roberge NPP Postdoctoral Fellow, GSFC. Now a staff scientist at GSFC.
Ruslan Belikov NPP Postdoctoral Fellow, GSFC. Now a staff scientist at NASA Ames.
Hannah Jang-Condell Michelson Postdoctoral Fellow, GSFC/UMD. Now an assistant professor at the University of Wyoming.
John Wisniewski NPP Postdoctoral Fellow, GSFC. Now an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma.
John Debes NPP postdoctoral fellow, GSFC. Now a staff scientist at STScI.
Thayne Currie NPP postdoctoral fellow, GSFC. Now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto.
Margaret Pan NPP postdoctoral fellow, GSFC. Now a researcher at MIT.
Veselin Kostov NPP Postdoctoral fellow, GSFC.
Petr Pokorny Research Scholar, GSFC.

Artist's Concept of Planetary System If you are in the DC area, please stop by and give a talk at the Goddard Exoplanets Club. We meet on Tuesdays at 11:30am at Goddard in Building 34, Room E215.
Here are some possibly useful Astronomy Links:

Q&A With Astronomy Magazine
General Astrophysics with TPF Workshop
General Astrophysics and Comparative Planetology White Paper
Aspen Conference on Planet Formation and Detection February 6-12, 2005
JPL Docushare
Princeton Seminar Series on Extrasolar Planets and Astrobiology
Paw Points
Database of Observational Mishaps
Statistical Consulting Center for Astronomy
Cosmic Dust
General Astrophysics with TPF Workshop
Synchrotron emission from extrasolar planets.
General Astrophysics and Comparative Planetology White Paper
Caltech Ge 167
CfA Star and Planet Formation Journal Club
Astronomy Meetings
CDS 270
Exploring Neighboring Planetary Systems
Harvard Extrasolar Planets Site
California/Carnegie Extrasolar Planets Site
Astrophysics Data System
Caltech Astronomy Department
Astronomical Pronunciation Guide
Simbad astronomical database
Skyview virtual telescope
RECONS Research Consortium on Nearby Stars
astro-ph Preprint Server
Division of Dynamical Astronomy
ExNPS Exploring Neighboring Planetary Systems site at JPL
Astrobiology Office at NASA Ames Research Center.
NED NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database.
The Large Binocular Telescope
The Submillimeter Array
Atacama Large Millimeter Array
Harvard College Observatory Tennis Club
Did you know that Queen guitarist Brian May used to study zodiacal dust?

NASA Logo, National Aeronautics and Space Administration