Ph.D. 2009 Earth System Science and Policy, University of North Dakota
M.S. 2005 Space Studies, University of North Dakota
M.A. 2002 Journalism, Annamalai University, India
B.Sc. 1998 Visual Communication, Bharathiar University, India
Vishnu joined the UND Space Studies department as a research assistant professor
in January 2010. Prior to that, he was a graduate student in the departments of
Earth System Science and Policy (2006-2009) and Space Studies (2003-2005) at UND.
Vishnu worked as a research staff in the Space Studies department in 2006. He is
also a visiting scientist at the prestigious Max-Planck Institute for Solar System
Research, Germany, where he spends his summers.
As research faculty, Vishnu focuses on the study of asteroids to better understand
the formation and evolution of our Solar System. The primary research technique
used for this work is near-IR reflectance spectroscopy of asteroids. For this, Vishnu
uses the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i, where he is a visiting
astronomer. He is responsible for producing the first compositional map of asteroid
Vesta's southern hemisphere, studying the source region the K/T impactor in the
asteroid belt that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, and composition and
albedos of dozens of near-Earth asteroids that threaten the Earth. Vishnu has also
developed several laboratory-based spectral calibrations for interpreting asteroid
Apart from spectroscopy, Vishnu also is involved in rotational studies of asteroids
using small remote telescopes that he operates with his cell phone. He has discovered
or co-discovered six binary asteroid systems both in the main asteroid belt and
the near-earth asteroid populations. Vishnu is credited with the discovery of 23
main belt asteroids one of which has been named “North Dakota” in honor of the state.
He is also credited with the co-discovery of supernova 2006E in NGC 5338.
Vishnu has been involved in numerous planetary spacecraft missions and mission concepts
providing ground support for both science and optical navigation operations. He
was the science lead for the PANIC asteroid lander concept study at the NASA Ames
Research Center as part of the Small Spacecraft Summer Study Project. Vishnu is
currently working with the DAWN Framing Camera team at Max-Planck Institute to develop
photometric calibration curves for asteroid Vesta. The DAWN is a NASA mission to
the largest asteroids Vesta and Ceres. Vishnu is also conducting mineralogical characterization
of potential targets for the German ASTEX spacecraft mission proposal to two near-Earth
Vishnu has authored or coauthored several peer-reviewed publications and nearly
40 abstracts for professional meetings. He has also the recipient of Geological
Society of America's Gene Shoemaker Impact Crater award. When time permits, Vishnu
enjoys his time on his innumerable hobbies including snorkeling, scuba diving, and
designing telescopes and optics. He is also an accomplished photographer, artist
and plays four wind instruments. Vishnu hopes to go back to school someday get a
second doctorate in marine biology.