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Dr. Susan Benecchi

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Senior Scientist

Currently resides in Herndon, VA
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Areas of Expertise
Targets: Dwarf planets, Kuiper Belt, Pluto
Disciplines/Techniques: Education/Public Outreach (EPO), Ground-based observing, Photometry
Missions: New Horizons

Research Interests

Dr. Susan Benecchi is passionate about astronomical research and inquiry-based science education. Her research focuses on small bodies, often binaries, in the outer solar system. She has worked as part of the Deep Ecliptic Survey (DES), a program to discover and dynamically characterize ~500 Kuiper belt objects (KBOs) since 2000. She is also invovled with the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS; Team which is a 4-year program being run on the CFHT with the MegaPrime Camera to discover and track ~500 TNOs. She is the Lightcurves group team lead and also invovled with the binaries team.

Benecchi's most recent work involves modeling eclipsing binary systems using Sila-Nunam as a test system (ground-based), studying the colors of KBOs in the resonance populations (with HST) and characterizing KBOs (with HST) that are potential long-range observing targets for a (yet to be approved) extended New Horizons mission to the Kuiper Belt. She is part of the planning team for such a New Horizons Kuiper belt extended mission.

Professional History

Dr. Benecchi's thesis work under Dr. Jim Elliot at MIT focused on variability of KBOs, astrometric follow-up of DES objects and discovery of binaries. Her post doctoral work at Space Telescope Science Institute with Dr. Keith Noll concentrated on further characterization of the properties of transneptunian binaries, this work continues today.

Since 1997, Dr. Benecchi has been involved with various educational outreach programs to a spectrum of audiences including elementary-college students, teachers and the general public (Project ARTIST, Project ASTRO, U. of Arizona Astronomy Camp and outreach for New Horizons). In March of 2015 she and collaborators (G. Kober and P. Gossard) self-published an Astronomy textbook entitled "The Crossroads of Science and Faith: Astronomy Through a Christian Worldview" ( The textbook is designed for homeschooled high school students of faith (primarily Christian) and aimed at helping students to come to a coherent and integrated understanding of both their faith and modern scientific inquiry. An article about the textbook published in the American Scientific Affiliation's Journal Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith entitled "At the Crossroads of Science and Faith: An Astronomy Curriculum"

Honors and Awards

Minor Planet 21458 Susank

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