Professor, Earth & Planetary Sciences
Like any planetary scientist, Erik Asphaug is interested in the origin and evolution of the solar system. One focus of his research is the geologic makeup and evolution of asteroids and comets, from which the planets accumulated; despite their ultra-low gravity, these appear to be rubble piles. Another is what happens when asteroids and comets impact planets, forming craters. He also studies larger scale collisions, common during early planet formation, such as the impact believed to have formed the Moon. With Craig Agnor and Quentin Williams of UCSC he is exploring "hit and run" planetary collisions, where bodies of comparable size collide in early planet formation but do not merge. This has led to new ideas both for the early solar system history and for late stage planetary evolution.