Michael Busch

Hertz Fellow: Michael Busch

California Institute of Technology

Area of Study


Fellowship Years

2007 - 2010

Michael Busch is a research scientist at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute. Previously, he worked in a postdoctoral position at UCLA's Department of Earth and Space Sciences, with associate professor Jean-Luc Margot. Michael received his undergraduate degree in physics and astronomy at the University of Minnesota in 2005, and his PhD in planetary science at Caltech in 2010. For his thesis research, he worked with Shri Kulkarni at Caltech and Steve Ostro at JPL.

Michael is a planetary astronomer, specializing in radar and radio observations of near-Earth asteroids. Understanding asteroid trajectories, shapes, sizes, and spins is essential to understand: the history of the asteroid population, to predict future Earth impacts, and to plan future spacecraft missions. Several objects Michael has observed had possible Earth impacts in the next few centuries; all have now been ruled out. He has a long-standing interest in space colonization and the potential of asteroid mining. This connects with radar observations in that only radar can uniquely identify potentially profitable mining targets from the ground. He hopes to eventually apply the techniques he has developed to produce a comprehensive survey of the asteroid belt to be used at the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter) array in Chile when it opens. In addition, he has studied asteroids in advance of and in support of three spacecraft missions: the Chang'e 2 flyby of asteroid 4179 Toutatis in 2012 December, ESA's proposed Marco Polo R mission to the asteroid 2008 EV5, and possible targets for the asteroid retrieval mission currently being considered by NASA.

In his spare time, Michael studies karate, and reads and writes science fiction.


2010 - Shapes and Spins of Near-Earth Asteroids