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Jean-Luc Margot and Magellan image of Venus

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Astronomy at Cornell University. I am interested in the dynamics, geophysics, and geodesy of solid planets. Current projects include the study of binary minor planets in the near-Earth, main belt, and trans-Neptunian populations; high-precision measurements of planetary rotation; asteroid dynamics; and planetary instrument design and development.



MESSENGER spacecraft executes Mercury flyby sequences flawlessly (2008 Jan 14 and Oct 6).

Instruments aboard MESSENGER returned spectacular new data of Mercury. My role on the Science Team is to combine spacecraft and ground-based data (gravity, topography, dynamics) to characterize the interior of the planet.

First detection of the YORP effect (2007 Mar 07).

Radar and optical observations of asteroid (54509) YORP provided the first direct observational evidence that sunlight modifies the spin of asteroids.

Cornell graduate student Patrick Taylor discovers asteroid satellite (2006 Jun 02).

Read the discovery announcement here.

Observations of asteroid 2000 BD19 at Arecibo Observatory (2006 Feb 25).

Successful observations at Arecibo Observatory provided precise range measurements to the asteroid 2000 BD19, which comes very close to the Sun (the closest approach distance is only 20 times the radius of the Sun). The asteroid's orbit is perturbed by general relativity and the non-spherical shape of the Sun.

What makes a planet?

Does the official definition make sense?

Two new instruments installed at the Arecibo Observatory.

Details and images soon.

2004 Urey Prize Lecture available:

Download a copy of the 2004 Urey Prize Lecture: Binary Minor Planets given at the 36th meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences.


Jean-Luc Margot
Department of Astronomy
Cornell University
304 Space Sciences Bldg
Ithaca, NY 14853
607 255 1810