MIT EAPS Directory

Richard P. Binzel

Professor of Planetary Sciences and Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow
Chair, Undergraduate Committee | Secondary Appointment - AeroAstro

Richard Binzel is one of the world’s leading scientists in the study of asteroids and Pluto. As the inventor of the Torino Scale, a method for categorizing the impact hazard associated with near-Earth objects (NEOs) such as asteroids and comets, his ongoing telescopic research includes the spectral characterization of asteroids posing a potential hazard to Earth as well as those that may be most easily reachable by future robotic and human missions. His scientific analysis has shown the link between major meteorite groups and their formation and source locations. Asteroid number 2873 bears his name, an honor bestowed by the International Astronomical Union in recognition of his contributions to the field. His mapping efforts of Pluto in the 1980s revealed a diverse surface entreating for exploration, finally achieved in 2015 as a co-investigator on NASA’s New Horizons mission. He is also a co-investigator on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission where he leads the development of a student-built flight instrument, the Regolith X-ray Imaging Spectrograph (REXIS).

Binzel was awarded the H. C. Urey Prize by the American Astronomical Society in 1991. He also was awarded a MIT MacVicar Faculty Fellowship for teaching excellence in 1994 and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has been a faculty member in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT since 1999.



G. Randall Gladstone, S. Alan Stern, Kimberly Ennico, Catherine B. Olkin, Harold A. Weaver, New Horizons Science Team, et al .(2016), The atmosphere of Pluto as observed by New Horizons, Science, Vol 351, Issue 6279, 18 March 2016, doi: 10.1126/science.aad8866

W. M. Grundy, R. P. Binzel, B. J. Buratti, J. C. Cook, D. P. Cruikshank, C. M. Dalle Ore, A. M. Earle, et al. (2016), Surface compositions across Pluto and Charon, Science 18 Mar 2016, Vol. 351, Issue 6279, doi: 10.1126/science.aad9189

Jeffrey M. Moore, William B. McKinnon, John R. Spencer, Alan D. Howard, Cathy B. Olkin, Richard P. Binzel, al. (2016), The geology of Pluto and Charon through the eyes of New Horizons, Science 18 Mar 2016, Vol. 351, Issue 6279, pp. 1284-1293, doi: 10.1126/science.aad7055

H. A. Weaver, M. W. Buie, B. J. Buratti, W. M. Grundy, R. P. Binzel, V. J. Bray, A. L. Chaikin, et al. (2016), The small satellites of Pluto as observed by New Horizons, Science 18 Mar 2016, Vol. 351, Issue 6279, doi: 10.1126/science.aae0030

F. Bagenal, M. Horányi, D. J. McComas, R. L. McNutt Jr., H. A. Elliott, New Horizons Science Team, et al. (2016), Pluto’s interaction with its space environment: Solar wind, energetic particles, and dust, Science 18 Mar 2016, Vol. 351, Issue 6279, doi: 10.1126/science.aad9045

Binzel, R. P. and DeMeo, F. E. and Burt, B. J. and Cloutis, E. A., et al. (2015) Spectral slope variations for OSIRIS-REx target Asteroid (101955) Bennu: Possible evidence for a fine-grained regolith equatorial ridge Icarus, vol. 256, pp. 22-29, doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2015.04.011

Carry, B. and Matter, A. and Scheirich, P. and Pravec, P., et al. (2015) The small binary asteroid (939) Isberga Icarus, vol. 248, pp. 516-525, doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2014.11.002

Cloutis, E. A. and Sanchez, J. A. and Reddy, V. and Gaffey, M. J. and Binzel, R. P. and Burbine, T. H. and Hardersen, P. S. and Hiroi, T. and Lucey, P. G. and Sunshine, J. M. and Tait, K. T. (2015) Olivine-metal mixtures: Spectral reflectance properties and application to asteroid reflectance spectra Icarus, vol. 252, pp. 39-82, doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2014.10.003

Cruikshank, D. P. and Grundy, W. M. and DeMeo, F. E. and Buie, M. W., et al. (2015) The surface compositions of Pluto and Charon Icarus, vol. 246, pp. 82-92, doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2014.05.023

Demeo, F. E. and Dumas, C. and Cook, J. C. and Carry, B. and Merlin, F. and Verbiscer, A. J. and Binzel, R. P. (2015) Spectral variability of Charon's 2.21-mu m feature Icarus, vol. 246, pp. 213-219, doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2014.04.010

Earle, A. M. and Binzel, R. P. (2015) Pluto's insolation history: Latitudinal variations and effects on atmospheric pressure Icarus, vol. 250, pp. 405-412, doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2014.12.028

Lauretta, D. S. and Bartels, A. E. and Barucci, M. A. and Bierhaus, E. B., et al. (2015) The OSIRIS-REx target asteroid (101955) Bennu: Constraints on its physical, geological, and dynamical nature from astronomical observations Meteoritics & Planetary Science, vol. 50, no. 4, pp. 834-849, doi: 10.1111/maps.12353

Marion, G. H. and S and , D. J. and Hsiao, E. Y., et al. (2015) EARLY OBSERVATIONS AND ANALYSIS OF THE TYPE Ia SN 2014J IN M82 Astrophysical Journal, vol. 798, no. 1, doi: 10.1088/0004-637x/798/1/39

Moore, J. M. and Howard, A. D. and Schenk, P. M. and McKinnon, W. B., et al. (2015) Geology before Pluto: Pre-encounter considerations Icarus, vol. 246, pp. 65-81, doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2014.04.028

Stern, S. A. and Bagenal, F. and Ennico, K. and Gladstone, G. R., et al. (2015) The Pluto system: Initial results from its exploration by New Horizons Science, vol. 350, no. 6258, pp. 292-+, doi: 10.1126/science.aad1815

Takir, D. and Clark, B. E. and d'Aubigny, C. D. and Hergenrother, C. W. and Li, J. Y. and Lauretta, D. S. and Binzel, R. P. (2015) Photometric models of disk-integrated observations of the OSIRIS-REx target Asteroid (101955) Bennu Icarus, vol. 252, pp. 393-399, doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2015.02.006

Vernazza, P. and Marsset, M. and Beck, P. and Binzel, R. P. and Birlan, M. and Brunetto, R. and Demeo, F. E. and Djouadi, Z. and Dumas, C. and Merouane, S. and Mousis, O. and Zanda, B. (2015) INTERPLANETARY DUST PARTICLES AS SAMPLES OF ICY ASTEROIDS, Astrophysical Journal, vol. 806, no. 2, doi: 10.1088/0004-637x/806/2/204


NASA Silver Achievement Medal (2017) | National Air and Space Museum, Goddard Trophy (2016) | American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Space Ops Award (2016) | Space Foundation, Jack L. Sweigert Exploration Award (2016) | National Space Society, Space Pioneer Award (2016) | New Horizons Mission to Pluto, Team Award (2015) | Science Magazine: People’s Choice Award (2015) | Science Magazine: Top Ten Breakthroughs of the Year (2015) | Discovery Magazine: Top Science Story (2015) | Science News Magazine: Top Science Story (2015) | Fellow, Meteorlogical Society (2004) | Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (1999) | MacVicar Faculty Fellow, MIT (1994) | Urey Prize, American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences (1991) | Dudley/Fullam Award, Dudley Observatory (1991) | Presidential Young Investigator, National Science Foundation (1990-1994) | Name “Binzel” bestowed to asteroid #2873, International Astronomical Union (1984) | Apker Award, American Physical Society (1980) | Viking Prize Grant, NASA (1978)