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Philip Nicholson's research centers on two main areas: the orbital dynamics of planetary ring systems and natural satellites, and infrared observational studies of planets, their satellites, and their rings. His work has included studies of the ring systems of Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune via Voyager observations and ground-based stellar occultations; Earth-based observations with the 5-meter Hale Telescope at Palomar of several small moons of Jupiter and Saturn discovered by the Voyager spacecraft; dynamical investigations of the planetary system around the pulsar PSR 1257 + 12, and of the rotational evolution of natural satellites; and studies of the zodiacal dust bands discovered by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite in 1983. Together with colleagues in Canada and at Harvard, he has been involved in the discovery of numerous outer satellites of Uranus, Saturn and Neptune. Nicholson is a member of the Visual Infrared Mapping Spectrometer science team on the NASA/ESA Cassini mission to Saturn, and was the leader of a team of Cornell and Caltech astronomers studying the impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 into Jupiter in July 1994 using the Hale Telescope. He has served on the Committees on Planetary and Lunar Exploration and on Astronomy and Astrophysics of the National Research Council, time assignment committees for the Kuiper Airborne Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope, and scientific advisory committees for Arecibo and IPAC. He has coauthored review articles on planetary ring dynamics and on the Uranian and Neptunian ring systems.
- Infrared images of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 bombarding Jupiter
- View of prominent impacts
- View directly over the South Pole of Jupiter
- HST image of Saturn RPX
- HST image 2 of Saturn RPX
principal investigator on
- FOR THE PARTICIPATION OF PHIL NICHOLSON IN CASSINI TWT ACTIVITIES awarded by NATL AERONAUTICS & SPACE ADM 2010 - 2014
- FOR THE PARTICIPATION OF PHIL NICHOLSON IN CASSINI VIMS ACTIVITIES awarded by NATL AERONAUTICS & SPACE ADM 2010 - 2014
co-principal investigator on
- IRREGULAR AND TIME-VARIABLE STRUCTURES IN SATURN'S MAIN RINGS awarded by NASA SHARED SERVICES CENTER 2011 - 2013
- SATURN LIMB STUDIES: HELIUM, WINDS, AND COMPOSITION awarded by NATL AERONAUTICS & SPACE ADM 2009 - 2013
- Dynamical instabilities in high-high obliquity systems. Astron. Jnl.. 145. 2013
- HST Observations of Saturian Satellites during the 1995 Ring Plane Crossings. Icarus. 152:282-315. 2001
- Near-IR Spectrophotometry of Saturnian Aerosols--Meridional and Vertical Distribution. Icarus. 152:407-422. 2001
- Icy Galilean Satellites: Modeling Radar Reflectivities as a Coherent Backscatter Effect. Icarus. 151:167-180. 2001
- Saturn's rings I. Optical depth profiles form the 28 Sgr occultation. Icarus. 145:474-501. 2000
- An evolving view of Saturn's dynamic rings. Science. 327:1470-1475 . 2010
- Discovery of 12 satellites of Saturn exhibiting orbital clustering. Nature. 412:163-166. 2001
selected publications listing
-French, R. G., P. D. Nicholson, C. C. Porco, and E. A. Marouf. "Dynamics and Structure of the Uranian Rings." In Uranus, Bergstralh, Miner, and Matthews, eds. (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1991), 327-409.
-Rasio, F. A., P. D. Nicholson, S. L. Shapiro, and S. A. Teukolsky. "An Observational Test for the Existence of a Planetary System Orbiting PSR1257 + 12." Nature 355, 325-326 (1992).
-Nicholson, P. D., D. P. Hamilton, K. Matthews, and C. F. Yoder. "New Observations of Saturn's Coorbital Satellites." Icarus 100, 464-484 (1992).
-Nicholson, P. D., R. G. French, and C. A. McGhee. "Saturn's Central Flash from the 3 July 1989 Occultation of 28 Sgr." Icarus 113, 57-83 (1995).
-Nicholson, P. D., et al. "Palomar Observations of the R Impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9: I. Light Curves." Geophys. Res. Letters 22, 1613-1620 (1995).
-Nicholson, P. D., et al. "Observations of Saturn's ring-plane crossing in August and November." Science, 272, 509-516 (1996).
-Gladman, B. J., et al. "Discovery of two distant irregular moons of Uranus." Nature, 392, 897-899 (1998).
-Nicholson, P. D., et al. "Saturn's rings I. Optical depth profiles form the 28 Sgr occultation." Icarus, 145, 474-501 (2000).
-Gladman, Brett, et al. "Discovery of 12 satellites of Saturn exhibiting orbital clustering." Nature, 412, 163-166 (2001).
-McGhee, Colleen A., et al. "HST Observations of Saturian Satellites during the 1995 Ring Plane Crossings." Icarus, 152, 282-315 (2001).
featured in archived article
- ASTRO-3302: The Life of Stars: From Birth to Death - Spring 2013
- ASTRO-4940: Independent Study in Astronomy - Spring 2013
- ASTRO-6940: Advanced Study and Research - Spring 2013
- ASTRO-4940: Independent Study in Astronomy - Fall 2012
- ASTRO-6579: Celestial Mechanics - Fall 2012
- ASTRO-6940: Advanced Study and Research - Fall 2012
- TAM-6720: Celestial Mechanics - Fall 2012
- ASTRO-2212: The Solar System: Planets, Satellites, and Rings - Spring 2012
- ASTRO-4940: Independent Study in Astronomy - Spring 2012
- ASTRO-6940: Advanced Study and Research - Spring 2012
- ASTRO-4940: Independent Study - Fall 2011
- ASTRO-6570: Physics of the Planets - Fall 2011
- ASTRO-6940: Advanced Study and Research - Fall 2011
education and training
- Ph.D., California Institute of Technology 1979