Michelle Kirchoff
Michelle Kirchoff and family

Postdoctoral Fellow
Lunar and Planetary Institute
3600 Bay Area Blvd.,
Houston, Texas 77058

Research Interests

Broadly my interests lie in using remote sensing data of solar system objects to discover and understand new and unique properties of the solid planets and satellites. I am interested in understanding the surface geology and underlying geodynamics of these bodies. Currently I am compiling and analyzing the impact crater distribution of the mid-sized, icy Saturnian satellites using Cassini ISS images. This data is providing insight into the historical geology of these satellites, information on the impactor population(s) in the Saturnian system, and how the impactor distributions compare to the rest of the solar system.

Previous research has involved determining how tectonic mountains on Io might have formed, mapping lineaments on Europa, analyzing the shape of Eros with spherical harmonics and mapping linear features on Rhea. The Io work focused on numerically modeling thermal stresses in Io’s crust as a possible source of stress that would cause faulting and build mountains. For the Europa research, I mapped all visible lineaments from a global mosaic of Galileo images, which were to be compared to global stress fields from different mechanisms, such as nonsynchronous rotation, assuming the features are tensional cracks. The Eros project involved utilizing different spectral filters to determine how Eros’ shape is described with spherical harmonics. Finally, I mapped linear features on Rhea using Voyager images to resolve if any pattern was present.

Besides my interest in research involving the solid bodies of our solar system, I still also have interests that come from my roots in astronomy and astrophysics. I am interested in the discovery and analyses of exoplanets. In addition, observing unique stellar systems to understand more about stellar evolution is of interest to me. As an undergraduate research assistant, I obtained telescopic observations of eclipsing binary star BL Lac, and using BVRI photometry developed a light curve that was then used to estimate many basic properties of the two stars.


  • Platforms: PC, Macintosh, Unix
  • Software: IRIS, Matlab, Microsoft Office Products, KaleidaGraph, Image J, Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, Binary Maker II, ArcMap, ENVI
  • Instruments: 13-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope


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Last updated
October 7, 2008