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Dr. Amanda Sickafoose

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Senior Scientist

Currently resides in Cape Town, South Africa
asickafoose [at] psi.edu
Areas of Expertise
Targets: Asteroids, Charon, Dwarf planets, Interplanetary Dust, Kuiper Belt, Moon, Planetary rings, Pluto, Trans-Neptunian objects
Disciplines/Techniques: Astrometry, Atmospheres, Ground-based observing, Numerical modeling, Photometry, Space-based observing, Spectroscopy
Instruments: Cameras, Dust counter, Imaging spectrometers, Spectrometers
Facilities: Gemini, IRTF, SOFIA

Research Interests

Active areas of research include characterizing distant Solar System bodies through stellar occultations (e.g. monitoring Pluto’s evolving atmosphere and placing size and atmospheric constraints on trans-Neptunian objects), studying Centaur environments (rings, jets, and comae), and measuring taxonomies and light curves of near-Earth asteroids. Other areas of interest include dusty plasmas, with applications to near-surface planetary environments such as the Moon and asteroids, and building instruments for ground-based telescopes.

Professional History

Dr. Sickafoose's work in planetary science started through the Research Experience for Undergraduates at Lowell Observatory/Northern Arionza University.  She received an MSc and PhD in Astrophysical, Planetary, and Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Colorado at Boulder.  She was briefly a postdoc in the Center for Integrated Plasma Studies before moving to the Dept. of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The transition in organizations also marked a transition in research topics, moving from experimental dusty plasmas to observations of bodies in the distant Solar System as part of the Deep Ecliptic Survey team.  For the next five years, her research focussed on characterizations of the Kuiper Belt, stellar occultations by TNOs, and building high-speed imaging instruments to observe stellar occultations. In 2008, she moved to Cape Town, South Africa, to become a staff astronomer on the 10-m Southern African Large Telescope (SALT).  In 2014, she became the Head of Instrumentation at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), which is her current post.  In order to observe from within the elusive shadows of stellar occultations,  Dr. Sickafoose has used a variety of telescopes around the world (including in Australia, Chile, Namibia, and New Zealand).  She was the PI for MORIS on the IRTF and the SHOC systems in Sutherland, and she has managed multiple other imaging and spectrograph instrumentation projects at the SAAO.  For awhile, she was known as Amanda Gulbis. 

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