PTYS/LPL Faculty

Lyle Broadfoot


  • Paul Bellaire, 1997 (Atmospheric)
  • Jeffrey Johnston, 1992 (Physics)
  • Stone Thomas, 1998 (Atmospheric)
Lyle Broadfoot
Senior Research Scientist
Planetary atmospheres
Ph.D., 1963, Saskatchewan



Dr. Broadfoot headed research programs in planetary atmospheric studies.

New data from the Earth's atmosphere was gathered with an instrument, GLO, the Arizona Airglow Experiment, GLO Instrument, which was flown on the Space Shuttle seven times. The first flight was STS-39 (1991) and the last flight was STS-95 (1998). Access to space using the Shuttle ended with the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003.

Both dayglow and nightglow data were acquired along the Shuttle orbits. Although modeling of the dayglow atmosphere has been extensive observational data has been sparse. The data is unique since it is a complete record of atmospheric conditions from sun up to sun down and was obtained from 24 contiguous altitude levels in the atmosphere. Also the data covers a broad spectral range giving simultaneous measurements of all of the prominent nitrogen, oxygen, metallic ion, etc. from a single column of gas through the atmosphere. Analysis of Earth atmospheric data gathered continues.

A second part of the flight program involves telescopic observations of the Jovian planetary system. Of particular interest is the Io Plasma Torus. On three Shuttle flights an international experiment UVSTAR (Ultraviolet Spectrograph Telescope for Astronomical Research) was included as part of the U of A payload. The UVSTAR experiment was jointly developed by NASA and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). The observations complement the measurements made from the Voyager and Galileo spacecraft at Jupiter.

A third part of the flight program involved planning the deployment of similar remote sensing instrumentation on the International Space Station.

Dr Broadfoot was the principal investigator for experiments on two NASA deep space missions.

Mariner 10 (MVM 73)
Mariner 10 was the first spacecraft sent to study Mercury. Mariner 10 also studied Venus while using the planet's gravity to modify its speed and trajectory, enabling it to reach Mercury. The Ultraviolet Spectrograph placed upper limits on the atmospheric gasses expected to form an atmosphere of the planet.

Voyager (MJS 77)
The Ultraviolet Spectrograph measured the atmospheric structure of the outer planets and primary satellites, Jupiter, Io, Saturn, Titan, Uranus, Neptune and Triton. Two techniques were used, resonance scattering of sunlight from atomic and molecular gases followed by atmospheric absorption of sunlight as the satellite passed into the target shadow. The experiment continues to return data as the spacecraft move into the Inter Stellar Medium. The Ultraviolet experiment was credited with the discovery of the Io Plasma Torus at Jupiter.

1981 NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal
1981 NASA Group Achievement Award for Voyager Science Instrument Development
1981 NASA Group Achievement Award for Voyager Science Investigations
1986 NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal
1986 NASA Group Achievement Award for Voyager Science Investigations
1990 NASA Group Achievement Award for Voyager Science Investigations
1993 NASA Group Achievement Award for Galileo Gaspra Encounter Team
1995 NASA Group Achievement Award for the Galileo Ida Encounter/Dactyl Discovery Team