Research & Bio
By day, I’m a planetary scientist by the name of Dr. Jamie Molaro. I’m a Research Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, in affiliation with (and working physically from) the Caltech/Jet Propulsion Laboratory in southern California. I am also a Participating Scientist on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission to retrieve a sample from asteroid Bennu, and a member of the Project for Exploration Science Pathfinder Research for Enhancing Solar System Observations (Project ESPRESSO), a node of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). I study the surfaces of rocky and icy airless bodies, like Earth’s Moon, asteroids, comets, and the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
My work focuses on thermally driven weathering and metamorphism processes that drive landscape evolution on these objects. Specifically, I study the way that daily heating and cooling can cause fracture propagation in rocks, causing them to break down into dust over time. I also study the process of ice sintering, and how the microstructure of ice deposited on the surfaces like Europa and Enceladus changes over time. Understanding these processes is important for learning about the nature and history of these objects, as well as for characterizing the properties of their surfaces to develop landing and sampling technology for future exploration.
- Twitter: @spacejammie
- Instagram: @dataarcana
- Email: jmolaro (at) psi.edu
Recent Interviews: (both science & art)
- Art the Science, art-focused science communication
- CosmoQuest’s Daily Space with Pamela Gay and Open Space with Frasier Cain to discuss my work studying weathering on asteroid Bennu
- transverse RANGES, an online magazine about how geoscientists come to be
- ROCKETGUT!, a blog about space and culture to discuss art
Select Recent Publications:
- Molaro, J. L., C. W. Hergenrother, S. R. Chesley, et al., 2020. Thermal fatigue as a mechanism for asteroid activity, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, p.e2019JE006325.
- Molaro, J. L., K.J. Walsh, E.R. Jawin, R.-L. Ballouz, et al., 2020. In situ evidence of thermally induced rock breakdown widespread on Bennu’s surface, Nature Communications, 11(1), 1-11.
- Molaro, J. L, M. Choukroun, et al., 2018. The microstructural evolution of water ice in the solar system through sintering. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.
- Graves, K. J., D. A. Minton, J. L. Molaro, M. Hirabayashi, 2019. Resurfacing asteroids from thermally induced surface degradation. Icarus, 322, pp.1-12.
- Molaro, J. L, S Byrne, and J.-L. Le, 2017. Thermally induced stresses in lunar boulders, implications for breakdown. Icarus, 294, pp.247-261.
- Molaro, J. L, S. Byrne, and S. Langer, 2015. Grain-scale thermoelastic stresses and spatiotemporaltemperature gradients on airless bodies, implications for rock breakdown. JGR Planets 120,DOI: 10.1002/2014JE004729.