The Department of Planetary Sciences/Lunar and Planetary Laboratory is an academic institution that pursues scholarly research and education across the broad discipline of planetary and solar systems science through use of theoretical studies and data analysis, laboratory and field investigations, numerical modeling, telescopic observations, remote sensing, spacecraft instrumentation, and space mission development and operations.
Message from the Director
Welcome to the University of Arizona’s Department of Planetary Sciences (PtyS) and Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL). The University of Arizona is one of the nation’s best research universities, annually ranking among the top in the nation in external financial support for research in the physical sciences.
Focus on Research
LPL has long been a leader in research into the small bodies of the solar system. Active research includes:
- Two world-renowned asteroid survey programs: Spacewatch, directed by Dr. Robert McMillan, claims a number of firsts in hunting for small bodies, many related to being the first to use CCD-scanning routinely; and the Catalina Sky Survey, under the direction of Eric Christensen, has led the world in asteroid discoveries each year since 2005. Dr. McMillan has also been part of the Near-Earth Object portion of the WISE spacecraft mission.
- The first American asteroid sample-return mission. OSIRIS-REx, with Professor Dante Lauretta as the Principal Investigator, is scheduled for launch in 2016.
- Several groups active in meteorite research, led by professors Lauretta, Swindle, and Zega.
- Research into the orbital evolution of the Main Asteroid Belt and the Kuiper Belt in the groups led by professor Renu Malhotra.
- LPL also has a long tradition of comet research, which continues with research by Associate Professor Walter Harris and Professor Emeritus Uwe Fink.