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Joseph A. Burns

Joe Burns is Cornell’s Irving Porter Church Professor of Engineering, a professor of astronomy, and former Vice Provost of Physical Sciences and Engineering. He arrived in Ithaca with a B.S. in naval architecture from Webb Institute and earned his Ph.D. from Cornell in 1966.

Joe has spent time at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (1967-68) and at the USSR Institute for Physics of the Earth (1973), and he later served as a senior investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center (1975-76 and 1982-83). He was also a visiting professor of astronomy at the University of California–Berkeley from 1982 to 1983 and visited the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory of the University of Arizona from 1989 to 1990. He attended the Kavli Institute (University of California–Santa Barbara) in spring 2008 and was at the Isaac Newton Institute (University of Cambridge) in fall 2009.

Joe is interested in developing analytical and numerical models to explain puzzling observational data concerning the solar system. He is a member of the imaging teams for the Cassini (Saturn) and Rosetta (European comet) missions and was an associate of the Galileo imaging team. Joe has assisted former students in their discoveries and interpretations of many irregular satellites in telescopic observations and of faint rings in spacecraft data.

Joe has organized exhibits of Cassini results that have appeared at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, among other venues. His current research concerns planetary rings and the small bodies of the solar system (dust, satellites, comets and asteroids).

Joe is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the International Academy of Astronautics, an honorary fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. In 1994 he received the Divison for Planetary Sciences' Masursky Prize. He received the Cowie Teaching Prize of the Engineering College in 2010.