Walter Harris

Walter Harris

Associate Professor of Applied Science

Research Focus:

Interplanetary Medium, Comets and Kuiper Belt Objects, Diffuse Planet and Satellite Atmospheres, Space Flight Instrument Design and Development.

Contact Information:

Office: 3045 Engineering III


Associate Professor of Applied Science, University of California, Davis (2007)
Assistant Professor of Earth and Space Science, University of Washington (2003-2007)
Research Scientist, University of Wisconsin-Madison (1995-2003)
Ph.D., Astronomy and Atmospheric and Space Science, University of Michigan (1993)
B.S./B.S.Eng., Astronomy and Physics Engineering, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana (1987)

Research Interests:

The uppermost regions of an atmosphere and the near space environment surrounding a planetary, satellite, or small icy body forms the boundary between that object and the heliospheric environment. It is these rarified regions that interact most directly with the Sun, solar wind, and local magnetic fields, leading to complex current/dynamical structures and photochemical modification of atmospheric composition. These effects, their consequences for conditions of their parent bodies and what they tell us about their outside environments varies dramatically from object to object within the solar system, providing a many opportunities to study the characteristics of the Sun-Planet Connection.

From a remote sensing perspective planetary upper atmospheres are often best observed by studying the intensity, line shape, and polarization of characteristic atomic, molecular, and ion emission and absorption lines. Dr. Harris’ research is focused on ground based visible and space based ultraviolet observations of diagnostic emissions from comets, planet-satellite upper atmospheres, and the interplanetary medium (IPM) using both imaging and spectroscopic techniques. These data are taken as part of a wider effort to observe and model tenuous atmospheres and the IPM that includes researchers at the Goddard Space Flight Center, l’Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Michigan. In addition, he is active in the development of new technology for the study of faint angularly extended emissions at high velocity resolution using an all reflective form of a spatial heterodyne spectrometer (SHS). SHS instruments have sensitivity and spectral resolution comparable to that obtained from large telescopes, such as HST, while being compact enough to fly as small payloads or as component instruments on larger missions to the other planets.

Selected Publications:

Harris, W. M., F. L. Roesler, L. Ben-Jaffel, E. Mierkiewicz, J. Corliss, R. Oliversen, and T. Neef (2005),“Applications of spatial heterodyne spectroscopy for remote sensing of UV-Vis emission line sources in the solar system”, Journal of Electron Spectroscopy and Related Phenomena, 147, pp. 973-977.

Ben-Jaffel, L., W. M. Harris, V. Bommier, F. Roesler, G. E. Ballester, and J. Jossang (2005) “Predictions on the application of the Hanle effect to map the surface magnetic field of Jupiter”, Icarus, 178, Issue 2, pp. 297-311.

Harris, W. M., F. Scherb, E. Mierkiewiecz, R. J. Oliversen, and J. P. Mogenthaler (2002), “Production, outflow velocity, and radial distribution of H2O and OH in the coma of comet C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp) from wide field imaging of OH”, Astrophysical Journal, 578, Issue 2, pp. 996-1008.

Harris, W. M., S. A. Stern, J.T. Clarke, and D. Slater (2002), ”The Role of NASA’s Planetary Sub-Orbital Program in Our Exploration of the Solar System”, The Future of Solar System Exploration, 2003-2013 (M. Sykes, Ed.): Astron. Soc. Pacific Conf. Series, 272: pp. 375-386.

Harris, W. M., J. P. Morgenthaler, F. Scherb, C. M. Anderson, and R. J. Oliversen (2002), “Wide-Field Imaging and Velocity Structure in the Coma of Very Active Comets: The Case of Hale-Bopp” (2002), Earth, Moon, and Planets, 90, Issue 1, pp. 45-56.

Harris, W. M., K. H. Nordsieck, F. Scherb, and E. J. Mierkiewicz (1999). “UV Photopolarimetric Imaging of C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp) with the Wide Field Imaging Survey Polarimeter (WISP).” Earth Moon and Planets 78: pp. 161-167.

Harris, W. M. (1998). “IUE Observations of the Impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter.” Ultraviolet Astrophysics Beyond the IUE Final Archive.

Harris, W. M., M. R. Combi, B. E. A. Mueller, and R. K. Honeycutt (1997). ”Evidence for interacting gas flows and an extended volatile source distribution in the coma of Comet C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake).” Science 277: 676-681.

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