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Sean C. Solomon

William B. Ransford Professor of Earth and Planetary Science; Director, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
School: 
School of the Arts
Department: 
Earth and Environmental Sciences Department
Office: 
214 Monell, 61 Route 9W - PO Box 1000, Palisades NY 10964-8000 US
Email: 
scs2186@columbia.edu
Phone: 
845-365-8714
Fax: 
845-365-8162
Appointments
  • Associate Director for Earth Systems Science, Earth Institute
Biography

Sean Solomon is the director of Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, the largest of the Earth Institute’s research centers. Prior to arriving at Columbia, in July 2012, Solomon served for 19 years as Director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, D.C., where his research focused on planetary geology and geophysics, seismology, marine geophysics, and geodynamics. From 1972 to 1992, Solomon was a member of the faculty of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has led or been involved in oceanographic expeditions on Earth as well as spacecraft missions to the Moon, Venus, Mars, and Mercury. From 1996 to 1998, he was president of the American Geophysical Union, the world’s largest organization of Earth and space scientists.

He is a graduate of the California Institute of Technology (1966) and MIT (Ph.D., 1971).

Solomon is the Principal Investigator for NASA’s MESSENGER mission to Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun. The MESSENGER spacecraft was inserted into orbit about Mercury in March 2011 after nearly seven years traveling through the inner solar system and has been continuously mapping the planet’s surface, interior, and environment since shortly after arrival. The mission recently discovered ice at Mercury’s north pole and will continue gathering information key to understanding the planet’s composition, geological and internal evolution, atmosphere, and magnetosphere. From 1998 to 2008, Solomon served on the executive council of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, which seeks to understand how life on Earth arose and its potential to exist elsewhere. Solomon is involved in NASA’s GRAIL mission to the Moon, which launched in 2011 and mapped the Moon’s gravitational field in unprecedented detail until late last year. From 1982 to 2005, he was involved in both the Magellan mission to Venus and the Mars Global Surveyor mission.

Solomon is a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is the recipient of numerous awards. These include the Geological Society of America’s G. K. Gilbert Award for solving broad problems in planetary geology, and the American Geophysical Union’s Harry H. Hess Medal, given for outstanding research on the evolution of Earth and other planets. In 2011, when he stepped down as a director at Carnegie, colleagues arranged to have a previously discovered asteroid named after Solomon. 

Research & Other Works
Article
Lunar impact basins revealed by Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory measurements
Article
Mercury’s surface magnetic field determined from proton-reflection magnetometry
Article
Structure and dynamics of Mercury’s magnetospheric cusp: MESSENGER measurements of protons and planetary ions
Article
The tides of Mercury and possible implications for its interior structure
Article
Lunar interior properties from the GRAIL mission
Article
Detection and characterization of 0.5–8 MeV neutrons near Mercury: Evidence for a solar origin
Article
Cyclic reformation of a quasi-parallel bow shock at Mercury: MESSENGER observations
Article
The Velocity Distribution of Pickup He+ Measured at 3.0 AU By Messenger
Article
Plasma distribution in Mercury’s magnetosphere derived from MESSENGER Magnetometer and Fast Imaging Plasma Spectrometer observations
Article
Ion kinetic properties in Mercury's pre-midnight plasma sheet
Article
MESSENGER observations of large dayside flux transfer events: Do they drive Mercury’s substorm cycle?
Article
Global inventory and characterization of pyroclastic deposits on Mercury: New insights into pyroclastic activity from MESSENGER orbital data
Article
Insights into the subsurface structure of the Caloris basin, Mercury, from assessments of mechanical layering and changes in long-wavelength topography
Article
Magnetic flux pileup and plasma depletion in Mercury’s subsolar magnetosheath
Article
The curious case of Mercury's internal structure
Article
Craters Hosting Radar-Bright Deposits in Mercury's North Polar Region: Areas of Persistent Shadow Determined from MESSENGER Images
Article
Mercury's Magnetopause and Bow Shock from MESSENGER Magnetometer Observations
Article
Dark Spots on Mercury: A Distinctive Low-Reflectance Material and Its Relation to Hollows
Article
The Redox State, FeO Content, and Origin of Sulfur-Rich Magmas on Mercury
Article
Distribution and Compositional Variations of Plasma Ions in Mercury's Space Environment: The First Three Mercury Years of MESSENGER Variations
Article
Investigating the Origin of Candidate Lava Channels on Mercury with MESSENGER Data: Theory and Observations
Article
Thermal Evolution of Mercury as Constrained by MESSENGER Observations
Article
The Distribution and Origin of Smooth Plains on Mercury
Article
MESSENGER Observations of Magnetopause Structure and Dynamics at Mercury
Article
An Assemblage of Lava Flow Features on Mercury
Article
Mercury's Hollows: Constraints on Formation and Composition from Analysis of Geological Setting and Spectral Reflectance
Article
The Origin of Graben and Ridges in Rachmaninoff, Raditladi, and Mozart Basins, Mercury
Article
Solar Wind Forcing at Mercury: WSA-ENLIL Model Results
Article
Mercury's Moment of Inertia from Spin and Gravity Data
Article
Characterization of the Morphometry of Impact Craters Hosting Polar Deposits in Mercury's North Polar Region
Article
MESSENGER Observations of a Flux-Transfer-Event Shower at Mercury
Article
MESSENGER Observations of Dipolarization Events in Mercury's Magnetotail
Article
Chemical Heterogeneity on Mercury's Surface Revealed by the MESSENGER X-Ray Spectrometer
Article
Variations in the Abundances of Potassium and Thorium on the Surface of Mercury: Results from the MESSENGER Gamma-Ray Spectrometer
Article
MESSENGER Detection of Electron-Induced X-Ray Fluorescence from Mercury's surface
Article
On the Origin of Graben and Ridges within and near Volcanically Buried Craters and Basins in Mercury's Northern Plains
Article
Aluminum Abundance on the Surface of Mercury: Application of a New Background-Reduction Technique for the Analysis of Gamma-Ray Spectroscopy Data
Article
Major-Element Abundances on the Surface of Mercury: Results from the MESSENGER Gamma-Ray Spectrometer
Article
Solar Wind Alpha Particles and Heavy Ions in the Inner Heliosphere Observed with MESSENGER
Article
Observations of Interstellar Helium Pickup Ions in the Inner Heliosphere
Article
Large Impact Basins on Mercury: Global Distribution, Characteristics, and Modification History from MESSENGER Orbital Data
Article
Spatial Distribution and Spectral Characteristics of Energetic Electrons in Mercury's Magnetosphere
Article
MESSENGER Observations of Mercury's Magnetic Field Structure
Article
Deformation Associated with Ghost Craters and Basins in Volcanic Smooth Plains on Mercury: Strain Analysis and Implications for Plains Evolution
Article
Characteristics of the Plasma Distribution in Mercury's Equatorial Magnetosphere Derived from MESSENGER Magnetometer Observations
Article
Survey of Coherent ~1 Hz Waves in Mercury's Inner Magnetosphere from MESSENGER Observations
Article
Low-Degree Structure in Mercury's Planetary Magnetic Field
Article
Internal and Tectonic Evolution of Mercury
 
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