Michael J. Gaffey, Ph.D.
Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor
B.A. 1968 Geology, University of Iowa
M.S. 1970 Geology, University of Iowa
Ph.D. 1974 Earth and Planetary Science, MIT
Mike joined the UND Space Studies Department in July 2001. Prior to that, he had been a Professor of Geology in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, New York) from 1984 to 2001. He was a research professor at the Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa (Honolulu, Hawaii) from 1979 to 1984. Prior to that, he'd been an assistant astronomer at the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa (Honolulu, Hawaii) from 1977 to 1979. Following his Ph.D. research, Mike was a post-doctoral researcher in the Planetary Astronomy Laboratory at MIT from 1974 to 1977.
Mike's research focuses on the study of asteroids in order to better understand the formation and early evolution of the Solar System. The primary technique used in this research is visible and near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy to characterize the surface mineralogy of asteroids and from that data to infer their evolutionary history. Data for this work comes from telescopic observations carried out at Mauna Kea observatory by Mike and his students and from the observations of other investigators. Mike and his students are responsible for implementing the most sophisticated observing procedures to obtain asteroid reflectance spectra and for developing the current state-of-the-art interpretive methodologies for the analysis of asteroid spectra.
Mike is responsible for producing the first geology map of an asteroid (4 Vesta), the identifications of the parent bodies of the H-chondrite, IIE iron and enstatite achondrite meteorites, as well as a number of other major advances in the field. He has been a participating scientist on two NASA asteroid spacecraft missions: the NEAR-Shoemaker mission which orbited the small near-Earth asteroid 433 Eros and the DAWN mission which orbited the large main belt asteroid 4 Vesta. Since 1977 Mike has also been involved in the investigation of potentially hazardous Earth-approaching asteroids and in extra-terrestrial resource potential of such objects.
Mike has also focused on the development of innovative teaching techniques. Prior to coming to UND, Mike had developed and taught such diverse courses as "Dinosaurs" [7 times], "Natural Sciences," "Geology II - Earth's Surface," "Historical Geology," "Crystal Field Theory," "Impact Mechanics," "Planetary Science," and "Error Analysis in Natural Sciences."
Mike is the author or coauthor of 130 refereed papers and 300 abstracts for professional meetings. He is an associate editor of the journal, Meteoritics and Planetary Science. He regularly serves on NASA review panels that review individual research proposals and mission proposals and which make recommendations concerning scientific merit and funding priority to NASA.
Mike had the rare honor of being awarded both the Leonard Medal and the G. K. Gilbert Award in 2006, for his outstanding contributions to the fields of planetary geology and the science of meteoritics.
Mike was married to Susan for 22 years until her untimely death. Susan was a carbonate petrologist and they had traveled together on a number of field investigations, including the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Southern Scotland, SW England, Montana, and Iowa. When time permits, Mike enjoys reading science fiction and history, cooking, good beer, classic movies, geology road trips, teasing his nieces and nephews, and taking pride in the accomplishments of his brothers and sisters. Mike was raised on a farm in northern Iowa and had eight siblings. All were encouraged to follow their own interests and the results include: the wife of a US Ambassador (a high school classmate of Mike's), a highway patrolman, a physiologist working with abused children, a farmer, a farm equipment mechanic, a pilot, a craft writer and pattern developer, and a welder of exotic metals. When they get together it is like feeding time at the zoo!
Selected peer reviewed publications:
- Gaffey M. J., V. Reddy, S. K. Fieber-Beyer and E. A. Cloutis (2015) "Asteroid (354) Eleonora: Plucking an Odd Duck." Icarus 250, 623-638.
- Fieber-Beyer S. K., M. J. Gaffey and P. S. Hardersen (2015) "Potentially Hazardous Asteroid 2007 LE: Compositional link to the Black Chondrite Rose City and Asteroid (6) Hebe." Icarus 250, 430-437.
- Reddy V., M. J. Gaffey, P. S. Hardersen (2012) "Constraining Albedo, Diameter and Composition of Near-Earth Asteroids via Near-IR Spectroscopy." Icarus 219, 382-392.
- Gaffey M. J. (2011) "Mineralogy of Asteroids." In XV Special Courses at the National Observatory of Rio de Janeiro. AIP Conf. Proc. 1386, 129-169. doi: 10.1063/1.3636041
- Fieber-Beyer S. K, M. J. Gaffey, and P. A. Abell (2011) "Mineralogical Characterization of Near Earth Amor Asteroid 1036 Ganymed." Icarus 212, 149-157.
- Gaffey M. J. (2010) "Space Weathering and the Interpretation of Asteroid Reflectance Spectra." Icarus 209, 564-574.
- Gaffey M. J., E. A. Cloutis, M. S. Kelley and K. L. Reed (2002) "Mineralogy of asteroids. In Asteroids III" (W. F. Bottke, A. Cellino, P. Paolicchi and R. P. Binzel, Eds.), Univ. of Arizona Press, pp. 183-204
- Gaffey M.J. and S.L. Gilbert (1998) "Asteroid 6 Hebe: The probable parent body of the H-type ordinary chondrites and the IIE iron meteorites." Meteoritics & Planet. Sci. 33, 1281-1295.
- Gaffey M.J. (1997) "The early solar system." Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere - Special Astronomy Issue. 27, 185-203.
- Gaffey M.J. (1997) "Surface lithologic heterogeneity of asteroid 4 Vesta." Icarus 127, 130-157.
- Gaffey M.J., J.F. Bell, R.H. Brown, T.H. Burbine, J.L. Piatek, K.L. Reed and D.A. Chaky (1993) "Mineralogic variations within the S-type asteroid class." Icarus 106, 573-602.
- Gaffey, M.J., K.L. Reed, and M.S. Kelley (1992) "Relationship of E-type Apollo asteroid (3103) 1982BB to the enstatite achondrite meteorites and the Hungaria asteroids."Icarus 100, 95-109.
- Gaffey, M.J. (1990) "Thermal history of the asteroid belt: Implications for accretion of the terrestrial planets." in Origin of the Earth (J. Jones and H. Newsom, eds.), Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, pp. 17-28.
- Cloutis, E.A., M.J. Gaffey, T.L. Jackowski and K.L. Reed (1986) "Calibrations of phase abundance, composition, and particle size distribution for olivine-orthopyroxene mixtures from reflectance spectra." J. Geophys. Res. 91, 11,641-11,653.