The School of Arts & Sciences

Department of Natural Sciences

Nelly Mouawad

Recipient of the 2014 Chretien Grant Award by the American Astronomical Society (AAS) (étien-international-research-grants). My research focus is on the planet Mercury; I study the morphology and evolution of the Mercurian exosphere, which is a very tenuous surface-bounded atmosphere. I perform observations using different telescopes to study the generation of different elements, like Na and K that are present in the exosphere. These elements are ejected from the surface by different physical processes. The spacecraft MESSENGER is currently in orbit around Mercury. I compare the ground-based data with the space data taken by MESSENGER. This study helps us understand what processes are at work for each different element. Understanding how these processes generate and maintain the exosphere, and how they modify the properties of Mercury’s surface is important to understanding the evolution of the planet in particular and of terrestrial planets in general. My other research interests evolve around the dynamics of the stars in the center of our Galaxy. I modeled the orbits of fast moving stars around the super-massive ( ~4 million solar masses) black hole at the center of the Milky Way to study the type of mass distribution that could be present around our central black hole.


1.       Nelly Mouawad, Matthew Burger, Rosemary M. Killen, Andrew E. Potter, E. ToddBradley, William E. McClintock, Ronald J. Vervack, Jr., Shantanu Naidu. ‘Ground-basedObservations of Mercury’s Sodium Exosphere in Conjunction with the first MESSENGERFlyby’. Icarus, 211, Issue 1, 21-36 (2011).

2.       Ronald J. Vervack, Jr., McClintock, William E., Rosemary M. Killen, Ann L. Sprague,Brian J. Anderson, Matthew H. Burger, E. Todd Bradley, Nelly Mouawad, Sean C.Solomon, and Noam R. Izenberg. ’Mercury’s Complex Exosphere: Results fromMESSENGER ‘s Third Flyby’. Science, 329, Issue 5992, pp. 672- (2010).

3.       Burger, Matthew H.; Killen, Rosemary M.; Vervack, Ronald J.; Bradley, E. Todd;McClintock, William E.; Sarantos, Menelaos; Benna, Mehdi; Mouawad, Nelly. ‘MonteCarlo modeling of sodium in Mercury’s exosphere during the first two MESSENGERflybys’. Icarus, 209, Issue 1, p. 63-74, 2010.

4.       McClintock, William E., Ronald J. Vervack, Jr., E. Todd Bradley, Rosemary M. Killen,Nelly Mouawad, Ann L. Sprague, Matthew H. Burger, Sean C. Solomon, and Noam R.Izenberg. ‘MESSENGER observations of Mercury’s Exosphere: Detection of Magnesiumand Distributions of Species’. Science, 324: 610-613 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1172525] 2009.

5.       Killen, R.M. D.E. Shemansky and N. Mouawad. ‘Expected Emission from Mercury’sExospheric Species, and their UV-Visible Signatures’. The Astrophysical Journal Suppl.,181, 351-359, 2009.

Academic Degrees:

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