Dr. James E. Richardson Jr.

Senior Scientist with the
Planetary Science Institute

Ph.D. in Planetary Sciences: Spring, 2005,
from the University of Arizona

B.S. degree in Physics: Spring, 2000,
from Florida State University



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Research interests:

I specialize in studying the properties and evolution of the surfaces of small solar system bodies, with a particular interest in impact crater dominated terrains. My work primarily involves the analytical and numerical modeling of surface development, regolith growth, and impact cratering reliated processes on these objects. This modeling work is compared directly to observations, either returned by spacecraft or gathered by Earth-based radar experiments, including such properties as overall shape, spin, topography, density, indications of regolith and boulders, and cratering records.

Published Research highlights:

  • Demonstrated the efficacy of impact cratering to produce asteroid regolith layers (Icarus, 2020)
  • Modeled the formation of the lunar Upper Megaregolith layer and the shape of the Late Heavy Bombardment impactor population (PSJ, 2020)
  • Described the erosional process whereby spin and gravity combine to minimize topographic relief on asteroid surfaces (Icarus, 2014, Icarus, 2019)
  • Determinted the surface properties of comet 9P/Tempel 1 via measurements of the crater produced by Deep Impact (Icarus, 2013)
  • Solved the long-standing question of how crater density equilibrium is reached on heavily-cratered terrains (Icarus, 2009)
  • Determined the mass and density of comet 9P/Tempel 1 via the expansion rate of the ejecta plume produced by Deep Impact (Icarus, 2007)
  • Linked the paucity of small craters on asteroid 433 Eros to the effects of impact-induced seismic shaking (Science, 2004, Icarus, 2005)
  • Extracted surface features of Saturn's moon Titan hidden within the Orange-fliter images taken by Voyager 1 (Icarus, 2004)

Recent items:

Current research projects:

Spacecraft mission involvement:

Related websites:

Icarus cover illustration


Figure 1 from J.E. Richardson et al. (Sep. 2019)

In the news:

Outer Main Belt Asteroid 17195 JimRichardson (1999 XQ234 = 1995 EO2)

  • Discovered 3 December 1999 by the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth Object Search at the Anderson Mesa Station.
  • Orbital parameter: a = 3.2 AU, e = 0.12, i = 6.1 deg, Period = 5.77 years
  • Physical parameters (JPL): absolute magnitude (H) = 14, Diameter = 4-9 km
  • Physical parameters (WISE): diameter = 6.2 +/- 0.2 km, albedo = 0.096 +/- 0.024
  • Likely asteroid family: Hygiea, Likely spectral class: C
  • Name announced in Minor Planet Circular 54564, 21 July 2005
  • Citation: James Richardson (b. 1961) has calculated models of the shaking of asteroids by impacts for his thesis research at the University of Arizona. As a side venture, he has provided simulation tools for reproducing the phenomenology seen by the Deep Impact mission, and these have been invaluable in planning observing sequences.


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"There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable."

" There is another theory which states that this has already happened."

-- Douglas Adams, 1980