2019 SARA Conference Keynote Speaker

Dr. Patric Taylor


Radar Observations of Solar System Objects


Planetary radar is one of the most unique and powerful methods of studying solid bodies in the Solar System from Mercury out to Saturn.  The most common targets of planetary radar observations, though, are near-Earth asteroids.  Radar is an incredibly useful technique for determining the orbits of asteroids as well as constraining their sizes, shapes, rotation rates, compositions, masses, densities, and binarity (whether they have their own small moons). 
This information is invaluable for planetary defense, both in determining if an asteroid presents an impact hazard to Earth, either now or in the future, and for informing spacecraft development should impact mitigation ever be necessary.


Dr. Taylor joined the LPI in 2018 after nine years of blasting rocks with the planetary radar at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, including as the planetary radar group lead. Dr. Taylor uses radar data to constrain the orbits of near-Earth asteroids and determine their sizes, shapes, densities, and other physical properties. These properties are fundamental to understanding the evolution of our solar system and crucial for planetary defense, i.e., knowing how to mitigate the threats from asteroids that may collide with Earth. His research also includes the dynamics of formation and evolution of binary asteroid systems and detection of non-gravitational effects on asteroids. Dr. Taylor led the study that conclusively showed that the YORP effect, a torque due to the absorption and re-emission of sunlight, changes the rotation rates of asteroids.

Dr. Taylor earned his Ph.D. in Astronomy from Cornell University and his Bachelor's degrees in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Maryland at College Park. At the LPI, he is the leader of USRA’s planetary radar and planetary defense group and continues collaborating and observing with Arecibo Observatory and other facilities.