The Minor Planet Center (MPC) is the single worldwide
location for receipt and distribution of positional measurements
of minor planets, comets and outer irregular natural satellites of
the major planets. The MPC is responsible for the identification,
designation and orbit computation for all of these objects. This involves
maintaining the master files of observations and orbits, keeping
track of the discoverer of each object, and announcing discoveries to the
rest of the world via electronic circulars and an extensive website.
The MPC operates at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, under
the auspices of Division F of the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
All of the MPC's operating funds come from a NASA's Near-Earth Object
Observations program grant. Much of the computer equipment that the MPC
uses was provided by the Tamkin Foundation.
Matthew Payne, MPC Director
Matt has worked at the MPC since 2017. He was MPC’s project scientist from 2018 to February 2021. He is now the MPC’s Director.
Matt received an MPhys in Physics (2001) from the University of Oxford, and then after an ill-considered spell as a management consultant in London, returned to academia, earning a Masters in Maths (2004) and a PhD in Astronomy (2009) from the University of Cambridge. He then worked in post-doc positions at the University of Florida and the Smithsonian before starting work at the MPC.
Matt’s research interests relate to the dynamics of both solar system objects and exoplanets, as well as to the processing of large data sets from all-sky surveys such as TESS, Pan-STARRS and the VRO-LSST.
Mike has worked at the MPC since 2009. He created and maintains the MPC's
public facing relational database, web interface and services. He is
presently active in performing ongoing orbit computations of comets and
Mike received an SB in Mathematics from MIT in 1977, and has been engaged
in computer programming ever since. During the 1980s he undertook a visual
comet hunting program, discovering three comets with the aid of a 6-inch
Peter has worked at the MPC since 2017 as an astronomer. His research interests are discovery of asteroids and comets, physical and dynamical properties of asteroids and meteors, and simulations of asteroid surveys. He co-discovered thousands of minor planets with Pan-STARRS, worked on LSST simulations on discovery efficiency of NEOs. He is active in public outreach activities.
He received M.Sc. in Physics (2006) and Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2010) from Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia. Peter worked as a research scientist as Comenius University (2010,2014), as Postdoctoral Fellow within Pan-STARRS project at University of Hawaii (2011-2014), as a Caltech Postdoctoral Scholar at Center for NEO Studies in Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2015-2017).
David received a B.S. in Physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in 1985, and completed his Ph.D. in Astronomy (also at UIUC) in 1996 with a thesis entitled “A Kinematic and Abundance Survey in the Galactic Rotational Directions.” He worked for over twenty years at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, where he developed and maintained their online observing proposal system. In 2011, he became interested in minor planet astrometry while working in collaboration with Winer Observatory. David has worked at the MPC since May 2018.
Paresh Prema, MPC Web Developer
Paresh has worked at the MPC since February 2019. He received an MPhys 2(i) degree in 2003 from the University of Manchester, UK. The following year he received his MSc in Numerical Solutions to Differential Equations from the University of Reading, UK. Paresh then completed his studies in higher education with a PhD in 2009 from the University of Cambridge, UK with a thesis entitled ‘Galaxy Formation and Evolution using the Virtual Observatory’.
Margaret’s research focuses on planetary dynamics and its applications in solar system and exoplanetary contexts. Her project topics have included the Kuiper belt, debris disks, mean motion resonances, planetary rings, exoplanet eccentricities, and planet formation. She has also worked on self-similar solutions for relativistic shock propagation.
Margaret studied physics and astrophysics at MIT (SB) and Caltech (PhD) and joined the MPC in September 2019 as an astronomer.
Rosemary has been an Astronomer at the MPC since January, 2020. She received a B.Sc. from MIT in 2007, and worked at Gemini Observatory as a Science Operations Specialist until 2011. She earned her PhD from the University of Victoria in 2016. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics until moving to the MPC.
Rosemary’s research interests include the orbital distribution and surface properties of trans-Neptunian objects, and what these properties reveal about the formation and evolution of the Solar System.
Federica has worked at the MPC since February 2020 as an astronomer. She received an M.Sc. in Mathematics (2010) and Ph.D in Mathematics (2015) from the University of Pisa, Italy with a thesis entitled “The Yarkovsky effect, Asteroid Dynamics and Impact Monitoring”.
Federica worked as a PostDoctoral Fellow at the Nice Observatory (2015-2017 and 2018-2020) and at the Paris Observatory (2017-2018). She is a member of the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC) and she is also the responsible for the validation of Solar System observations for the ESA Gaia mission.
Federica’s research focuses on the study of asteroid families to understand the evolution of the solar system and chaotic orbit determination.
Mike Alexandersen, MPC Fellow
Mike has worked at the MPC since January 2020 as an MPC
Fellow. Mike received a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Astronomy from the
University of Copenhagen (Denmark) in 2007 and 2009, respectively,
with thesis projects studying eclipsing binary stars and gamma ray
bursts, respectively. In 2015, Mike completed a Ph.D. in Astronomy
from the University of British Columbia (Canada), titled "A carefully
characterised Trans-Neptunian survey".
Since 2010 Mike's research has focused on Solar System minor
bodies, and has included involvement in the discovery of two moons of
Jupiter and over 900 Kuiper Belt objects. Mike has also contributed
development to the TRIPPy Python packages for performing photometry of
Chris Moriarty, MPC Technical Manager
Chris has worked at the MPC since October 2021 taking on a new
Technical Manager role focused on software engineering and project
Chris received a B.S and M.S in Computer Engineering from the
University of Central Florida in 2005 and 2007, respectively, with
graduate research in artificial intelligence. Chris has been working
as a professional software engineer since 2007, with industry
experience in both the corporate and small business worlds. He made a
transition to astronomy in 2012, taking a Senior Systems Software
Engineer position at the Space Telescope Science Institute, gaining a
deep understanding of continuous integration, systems engineering,
integration and testing and project management. He brought these
skills to SAO in 2018, where he led the software development efforts
at the Submillimeter Array, and put in place new project management
processes for all aspects of development, engineering and maintenance
for the observatory.
N Casale, Software Engineer
N has worked at the MPC since February 2022 as a software engineer. They are working to implement new webpages and services that provide easier access to the MPC's data
N received a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina State University in 2017 and '18 respectively. Since 2018, they have worked as a software developer with a special interest in computational efficiency and the management of large datasets.
Ben Gafford, Software Engineer
Ben has worked at the MPC since October 2022 as a software engineer.
Ben received a BA in Computer Science from Grinnell College in 2020 before going on to complete a Master's in Software Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in 2022. His graduate studies focused on automated testing techniques for cyber-physical systems.