Lowell's astronomers carry out research in areas spanning much of modern astrophysics, from studies of tiny icy objects in our own solar system to the structure of distant galaxies. Meet our scientists and learn more about our diverse programs here.
Icy bodies in the outer solar system
Will studies the compositions and evolution of solid surfaces of solar system objects by means of visible and infrared telescope observations, laboratory studies, and theoretical models. He is particularly interested in the icy surfaces of outer solar system objects including Pluto, Eris, and Makemake, the icy satellites of giant planets, centaurs, and Kuiper belt objects. Among these objects, a large fraction are binaries or multiple systems, which makes it possible to determine their masses and thus densities, which Will has been doing by means of high spatial resolution imaging from the Hubble, Keck, and Gemini telescopes. The largest of these icy worlds feature surface compositions including materials we normally think of as liquids and gases like water, oxygen, nitrogen, methane, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide, all frozen solid by the extremely cold temperatures prevalent in the outer solar system. These exotic solids are sculpted by a rich array of chemical and physical processes, including sunlight-powered sublimation, leading to geysers and other bizarre landforms, as well as complex chemical reactions driven by the harsh radiation of space (from which we are fortunate to be mostly protected by Earth's atmosphere). Will is a science team member on NASA's New Horizons mission on its way to explore the Pluto system in 2015.
Select a program from the list below to read more about it.