AAC Public Meeting @ Zoom

  • 13 Oct 2020
  • 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
  • Zoom


Registration is closed

Join us for an exciting and interesting evening using Zoom!


7:00 - 7:30 General Meeting & Announcements
7:30 - 7:45 Refreshments
7:45 - Public Presentation

Speaker: Dr. Estela Fernández-Valenzuela

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Florida Space Institute(UCF)

Topic: Ground and Space Observations of Trans-Neptunian Objects


The outer part of the Solar system is populated by the so-called trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), small bodies that describe elliptic orbits with a larger semi-major axis than that of Neptune. They were formed beyond the snow line, where the temperature of the protoplanetary disc was low enough to allow molecules of volatiles (such as water or methane) to survive during this early era of the Solar system.

Due to the vast distances to the Sun, the surface materials of TNOs have undergone less chemical processes if compared with other objects of the Solar system; in some sense, these objects are time capsules containing almost intact material from the protoplanetary disc. I will discuss different techniques for the study of the physical properties of these objects using ground and space-based observations, and present some of the latest advances in this area of research.

About the Speaker: 

Estela Fernández-Valenzuela is a post-doctoral researcher at the Florida Space Institute as part of the Preeminent Postdoctoral Program at the University of Central Florida. She completed her degree in Physics at the Complutense University of Madrid (Spain). She received a Master’s degree in Astrophysics at the same university while collaborating with the University of Jaén (Spain), studying blazars with photometric techniques. Thereafter, she moved to the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía in Granada (Spain), where she carried out research activities that led her to her Ph.D. in Physics and Space Science from the University of Granada. Her thesis dealt primarily with the application of photometry at optical wavelengths to the study of trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) and centaurs.

Her research interest is the study of the origin of the Solar System, including how it was formed and which physical processes were responsible for the actual conditions. More precisely, she is interested in the small objects orbiting in the outer part of the Solar System, those called trans-Neptunian objects. She is an expert in the use of photometric techniques to analyze rotational light-curves of these objects. Through this technique, different physical parameters, such as rotation period, shape and density, can be obtained. She is also very interested in the stellar occultation technique, which has been successfully used in the last few years to obtain information on the size and shape of small bodies. This technique enabled the discovery of Haumea’s ring, the first ring observed around a trans-Neptunian object, of which Estela was a co-author and co-discoverer.

She has also been involved in ground-based observations in support of the Lucy mission, which is expected to be launched in October 2021, with the aim of studying Jupiter Trojan asteroids (Trojans). Lucy will flyby 5 Trojans and one main belt asteroid. It will be the first mission to visit these primitive bodies of the Solar System. Additionally, Estela is working on using Spitzer Space Telescope data to study the surface composition of TNOs. Currently, she is the point of reference for the James Webb Space Telescope in Florida and Puerto Rico, that is scheduled to launch on March 2021. One of her greatest achievements is the detection of the satellite of the TNO Varuna using techniques that are usually apply to asteroids, which are much closer and brighter than TNOs.

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