PTYS/LPL Faculty

Kuiper 530


Pierre Haenecour (he/him)

Assistant Professor

Ph.D., 2016 Washington University in St. Louis

Years with LPL: 2017 to present

Astrobiology, Cosmochemistry, Planetary Astronomy, Small Bodies

Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins. Which of the two has the grander view? Victor Hugo (Les Misérables, 1862)

My research focus on the building blocks and early history of the Solar System history, and the origin of life through coordinated in-situ laboratory analyses of circumstellar and interstellar dust grains and organic molecules in unequiliberated planetary materials (e.g., meteorites, micrometeorites and interplanetary dust particles) using nano and microanalytical techniques in the Kuiper Imaging Facility and Planetary Materials Research Group. Circumstellar dust grains, also called stardust or presolar grains, formed in previous generations of stars, were included in the materials in the molecular cloud from which our solar system formed, and were preserved in asteroids and comets. As bona fide dust grains from stars, the laboratory analysis of presolar grains  provides a 'snapshot' of conditions (e.g., nucleosynthesis, temperature, pressure and dust condensation process) in their parent stars at the time of the grain's formation. Furthermore, as building blocks our own Solar System, the comparison of the chemical composition, abundance and distribution of presolar grains provide us insight into the early stages of solar system formation.

I also use in-situ heating experiments inside electron microscopes (both SEM and TEM) to constrain variations in elemental and isotopic compositions, mineralogies, microstructures, textures and morphologies of bioessential compounds in function of the conditions (e.g., temperature and time) of thermal processes on asteroids. As prebiotic components, understanding the thermal history of these materials is crucial to unveil their origin(s) and evolution, as well as to constrain the delivery of bioessential elements to the Earth.

My group is also actively working on getting ready for the analysis of samples from asteroid (101955) Bennu  that are being returned to Earth by the NASA OSIRIS-REx mission, and on the NASA Alien Earths project to advance our understanding of how nearby planetary systems formed and which systems are more likely to harbor habitable worlds.


Pierre grew up in Brussels (Belgium) and graduated with B.A. and M.S. degrees in Geology and Geochemistry from the Free University of Brussels. He then moved to St. Louis (Missouri) and obtained a M.A. degree and a Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Washington University in St. Louis. His doctoral research work focused on the identification and coordinated micro-analytical study of and circumstellar grains (also called presolar or stardust grains) in primitive meteorites and fine-grained micrometeorites.

His background is in Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry, from terrestrial samples (e.g., Pb and Zn isotopes in Archean komatiitic lava flows) to primitive extraterrestrial samples (e.g., meteorites and micrometeorites), using multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and a variety of in situ ion- and electron-microscopy techniques (e.g., secondary ion mass spectrometry, Auger and Raman spectroscopy, focused-ion-beam scanning-electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy).

Current Grants

  • Acquisition of an environmental low-voltage tabletop secondary electron microscope - TRIF - FY22. Principal Investigator.
  • Acquisition of a BSE detector and in-situ heating holder for the HITACHI 4800 SEM in the Kuiper Imaging Facility - TRIF - FY21-22. Principal Investigator.
  • Acquisition of a BSE detector and MAPS software for the FIB-SEM in the Kuiper Imaging Facility - TRIF - FY20-21. Co-Investigator. Principal Investigator - T. Zega (UA).
  • Alien Earths: Which Nearby Planetary Systems Are Likely to Host Habitable Planets and Life? - NASA Astrobiology Institute ICAR - FY20-25 Co-Investigator. Principal Investigator - D. Apai (UA).

Current Spacecraft Involvement

  • Sample Science Co-Investigator NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission. The lead for the Sample Analysis Data Archiving Working Group, and member of the Sample Elements and Isotopes Analysis, the Sample Organics Analysis, and the Mineralogy and Petrograpgy Working Groups.

Current Graduate Students

Research Advisor to Undergraduate students:

  • Samantha Weidman (Biological Chemistry Major) - Spring 2021 to present
  • Beth Brooks (Neuroscience and Cognitive Science Major in the W.A Franke Honors College) - Fall 2021 to present
  • André Chavez (Biology Major in the W.A Franke Honors College) - Fall 2021 to present
  • Julie Arjon (Astronomy Major and Astrobiology Minor) - Spring 2022 to present

Complete publications list available from: NASA ADS Author search: P. Haenecour

Recent refereed publications (NASA ADS): Years 2019 through June 2022

Seifert, Laura B., Haenecour, Pierre, & Zega, Thomas J. 2022, Meteoritics and Planetary Science. Coordinated chemical and microstructural analyses of presolar silicate grains from AGB/RGB stars and supernovae in the CO3.0 chondrite Dominion Range 08006

Seifert, Laura, Haenecour, Pierre, Ramprasad, Tarunika, & Zega, Thomas 2021, Microscopy and Microanalysis. Coordinated Analyses of a Supernova Silicate Grain in the CO3.0 Chondrite Miller Range 07687

Ogliore, Ryan, Nagashima, Kazuhide, Huss, Gary, and Haenecour, Pierre (2021), Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms. A reassessment of the quasi-simultaneous arrival effect in secondary ion mass spectrometry 

Haenecour, Pierre, Floss, Christine, Brearley, Adrian J., & Zega, Thomas J. 2020, Meteoritics and Planetary Science. The effects of secondary processing in the unique carbonaceous chondrite Miller Range 07687

Zega, Thomas J., Haenecour, Pierre, & Floss, Christine 2020, Meteoritics and Planetary Science. An in situ investigation on the origins and processing of circumstellar oxide and silicate grains in carbonaceous chondrites

Leitner, Jan, Metzler, Knut, Vollmer, Christian, Floss, Christine, Haenecour, Pierre, Kodolányi, János, Harries, Dennis, & Hoppe, Peter 2020, Meteoritics and Planetary Science. The presolar grain inventory of fine-grained chondrule rims in the Mighei-type (CM) chondrites

Haenecour, Pierre & Bose, Maitrayee 2020, Meteoritics and Planetary Science. Understanding our solar system history through in situ nanoscale analysis of extraterrestrial materials: A special issue for Dr. Christine Floss

Bernal, J. J., Haenecour, P., Howe, J., Zega, T. J., Amari, S., & Ziurys, L. M. 2019, The Astrophysical Journal. Formation of Interstellar C<SUB>60</SUB> from Silicon Carbide Circumstellar Grains

Seifert, Laura, Haenecour, Pierre, Zega, Thomas, & Ramprasad, Tarunika 2019, Microscopy and Microanalysis. Coordinated Analyses of a Supernova Polycrystalline Olivine Aggregate in the CO Chondrite Dominion Range 08006

Zega, TJ, Bernal, J., Howe, JY, Haenecour, P., Amari, S., & Ziurys, LM 2019, Microscopy and Microanalysis. Putting Stars in the Gap: in situ Irradiation and Heating of Synthetic SiC and Implications for the Origins of C-rich Circumstellar Materials

Ramprasad, Tarunika, Haenecour, Pierre, Seifert, Laura, & Zega, Thomas J. 2019, Microscopy and Microanalysis. Understanding the Origin and Evolution of Meteoritic Refractory Minerals Through Transmission Electron Microscopy

Haenecour, Pierre, Thompson, Michelle S., Zega, Thomas J., Howe, Jane Y., & Chen, Wei-Ying 2019, Microscopy and Microanalysis. In situ Ion Irradiation and Heating Experiments in the Transmission Electron Microscope: Simulations of Dust Processing in Circumstellar Environments

Haenecour, Pierre, Howe, Jane Y., Zega, Thomas J., Amari, Sachiko, Lodders, Katharina, José, Jordi, Kaji, Kazutoshi, Sunaoshi, Takeshi, & Muto, Atsushi 2019, Nature Astronomy. Laboratory evidence for co-condensed oxygen- and carbon-rich meteoritic stardust from nova outbursts

January 29, 2022 - Astronomy Days at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences - "We Are Made of Star Stuff - Stardust in the Laboratory" (see Youtube video)

January 21, 2021 - Astronomy Days at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences - "NASA OSIRIS-REx Mission: Insight into the Origin of Volatiles Through the Analysis of Samples from Asteroid 101955 Bennu" (see Youtube video)

September 01, 2021 - Vice Motherboard - "How to Grab an Asteroid | The Space Show"

July 05, 2019 - Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association - "From Stars to the Laboratory: Stardust in the Solar System"


Haenecour et al. (2019). Laboratory evidence for co-condensed oxygen- and carbon-rich meteoritic stardust from nova outbursts. Nature Astronomy 3, pp. 626-630 (04/29/2019)


Haenecour et al. (2013). First Laboratory observation of silica grains from core collapse supernovae. The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 768: L17 (5pp) (05/01/2013)

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PDF icon CV-Haenecour_Jan2022.pdf190.66 KBFebruary 13, 2022
Semester Course Day/Time Location Resources
Spring 2023 PTYS 595B-00002 MW 9:00-10:40a.m. Kuiper 7

Last updated on February 13, 2022