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Susan Benecchi Personal/Professional Page

Dr. Benecchi is passionate about astronomical research and inquiry-based science education. Her research focuses on small bodies, often binaries, in the outer solar system. She has worked as part of the Deep Ecliptic Survey (DES), a program to discover and dynamically characterize ~500 Transneptunian belt objects (TNOs) since 2000. Her thesis work under Dr. Jim Elliot at MIT focused on variability of KBOs, astrometric follow-up of DES objects and discovery of binaries. Her post doctoral work at Space Telescope Science Institute with Dr. Keith Noll concentrated on further characterization of the properties of transneptunian binaries, this work continues today. She is also invovled with the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS; Team which is a 4-year program being run on the CFHT with the MegaPrime Camera to discover and track ~500 TNOs. She is the Lightcurves group team lead and also invovled with the binaries team.

Benecchi's most recent work involves modeling eclipsing binary systems using Sila-Nunam as a test system (ground-based), studying the colors of KBOs in the resonance populations (with HST) and characterizing KBOs (with HST) that are potential long-range observing targets for a (yet to be approved) extended New Horizons mission to the Kuiper Belt. She is part of the planning team for such a New Horizons Kuiper belt extended mission. 

Since 1997, Dr. Benecchi has been involved with various educational outreach programs to a spectrum of audiences including elementary-college students, teachers and the general public (Project ARTIST, Project ASTRO, U. of Arizona Astronomy Camp and outreach for New Horizons). In March of 2015 she and collaborators (G. Kober and P. Gossard) self-published an Astronomy textbook entitled "The Crossroads of Science and Faith: Astronomy Through a Christian Worldview" ( The textbook is designed for homeschooled high school students of faith (primarily Christian) and aimed at helping students to come to a coherent and integrated understanding of both their faith and modern scientific inquiry. Asteroid (21458) Susank has been named in her honor.


Full papers listing: Direct ADS Listings  (RSS)

CV as of June 2015:


Recent papers:

The Deep Ecliptic Survey:

Adams, E. R., Gulbis, A. A. S., Elliot, J. L., Benecchi, S. D., Buie, M. W., Trilling, D. E., Wasserman, L. H. 2014. De-biased Populations of Kuiper Belt Objects from the Deep Ecliptic Survey. The Astronomical Journal, 148, Issue 3, article id. 55.

Gulbis, A. A. S., Elliot, J. L., Adams, E. R., Benecchi, S. D., Buie, M. W., Trilling, D. E., and  Wasserman, L. H. Unbiased Inclination Distributions for Objects in the Kuiper Belt. Astron. J. 140, 350-369.

Kuiper Belt:

Grundy, W. M., Porter, S. B., Benecchi, S. D., Roe, H. G., Noll, K. S., Trujillo, C. A., Thirouin, A., Stansberry, J. A., Barker,  E., and Levison, H. F. 2015. The mutual orbit, mass, and density of the large transneptunian binary system Varda and Ilmarë. Icarus, Volume 257, p. 130-138.

Benecchi, S. D., Noll, K.S., Weaver, H. A., Spencer, J.R., Stern, S.A., Buie, M.W. and Parker, A.H. 2014. New Horizons: Long-range Kuiper Belt targets observed by the Hubble Space Telescope, Icarus, Volume246, 369-374.

Grundy, W. M., Benecchi, S. D., Porter, S. B. and Noll, K. S. 2014. The Orbit of Transneptunian Binary Manwe and Thorondor and their Upcoming Mutual Events. Icarus, Volume 237, 1-8.

Rabinowitz, D. L, Benecchi, S. D., Grundy, W. M., and Verbiscer, A. J.  2014 The Rotational Light Curve of (79360) Sila-Nunam, an Eclipsing Binary in the Kuiper Belt. Icarus, Volume 236, 72-82.

Benecchi, S. D., Noll, K. S., Thirouin, A., Ryan, E., Grundy, W. M., Verbiscer, A., Doressoundiram, A., Hestroffer, D., Beaton, R., Rabinowitz, D. and Chanover, N. 2014. The UT 7/8 February 2013 Sila-Nunam Mutual Event & Future Predictions. Icarus, Volume 229, 423-427.

Benecchi, S. D. and Sheppard, S. S. 2013. Lightcurves of 32 Large Transneptunian Objects. The Astronomical Journal, Volume 145, 124-144.

Parker, A. H., Buie, M. W., Osip, D. J., Gwyn, S. D. J., Holman, M. J., Borncamp, D. M., Spencer, J. R., Benecchi, S. D., Binzel, R. P., DeMeo, F. E., Fabbro, S., Fuentes, C. I., Gay, P. L., Kavelaars, J. J., McLeod, B. A., Petit, J., Sheppard, S. S. Stern, S. A., Tholen, D. J., Trilling, D. E., Ragozzine, D. A., Wasserman, L. H., Ice Hunters. 2013. 2011 HM102: Discovery of a High-Inclination L5 Neptune Trojan in the Search for a post-Pluto New Horizons Target. The Astronomical Journal, 145. Article 96.

Grundy, W. M., Benecchi, S. D., Rabinowitz, D. L., Porter, S. B., Wasserman, L. H., Skiff, B. A., Noll, K. S., Verbiscer, A. J., Buie, M. W., Tourtellotte, S. W., Stephens, D. C., and Levison, H. F. 2012 Mutual Events in the Cold Classical Transneptunian Binary System Sila and Nunam. Icarus, 220, 74–83.

Benecchi, S. D., Noll, K. S., Stephens, D. C., Grundy, W. M., Rawlins, J. 2011 Optical and Infrared Colors of Transneptunian Objects Observed with HST. Icarus 213, 693-709.

Grundy, W. M., Noll, K. S., Nimmo, F., Roe, H. G., Buie, M. W., Porter, S., Benecchi, S. D., Stansberry, J. A., Stephens, D. C. and Levison, H. F. 2010. Five New and Three Improved Mutual Orbits of Transneptunian Binaries. Icarus 213, 678-692.

Benecchi, S. D. and Noll, K. S. 2010. HST Astrometry of Transneptunian Objects. ApJ Supplements 189, 336-340.

Benecchi, S. D., Noll, K. S., Grundy, W. M., and Levison, H. F. 2010. (47171) 1999 TC36, A Transneptunian Triple. Icarus, 207, 978-991.


Benecchi, S. D., McCarthy, D. W., Kulesa, C. A., Hubbard, W. B., Person, M. J., Elliot, J. L., Gulbis, A. A. S. 2010. P445.3 (Pluto) Occultation V1.0, NASA Planetary Data System, EAR-P-I0962/I0964-5-BENECCHIOCC-V1.0.

Hubbard, W. B., McCarthy, D. W., Kulesa, C. A., Benecchi, S. D., Person, M. J., Elliot, J. L., and Gulbis, A. A. S. 2009. Buoyancy waves in Pluto’s high atmosphere: Implications for stellar occultations. Icarus 204, 284-289.

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