Liberty Bell High School Career Fair

Posted by admin on May 11, 2017


Dr. Jean-Philippe Combe and Dr. Sandeep Singh shared their experiences in science during Liberty Bell High School's 2017 Career Fair.

BFI at LPSC 2017

Posted by admin on April 3, 2017

BFI at LPSC 2017.jpg

Dr. Jean-Philippe Combe, Katherine Johnson, and Dr. Sandeep Singh at LPSC 2017

BFI participated in LPSC 2017 with several presentations and posters.


McCord T. B. * Castillo-Rogez J. C. Russell C. T. Raymond C. A.

Title: Ceres Evolution: The Picture Before and After Dawn [#1098]

Summary: Ceres is shown by Dawn to be a highly physically and chemically evolved water-rich body probably active today, consistent with pre-Dawn findings.

Combe J.-Ph. * Raponi A. Tosi F. De Sanctis M.-C. Ammannito E. et al.

Title: Exposed H2O-Rich Areas on Ceres Detected by Dawn [#2568]

Summary: - H2O-rich materials exposed at the surface of Ceres have been detected by the Visible and InfraRed mapping spectrometer (VIR) of the Dawn mission.

  • Spectral modeling indicates that H2O ice is the most likely component, as opposed to hydrated minerals.
  • To date, nine H2O-rich areas have been identified, at latitudes higher than 30 .
  • The distribution is comparable with the latitudinal trend observed in the Hydrogen abdundance of the subsurface measured by the Gramma-Ray and Neutron Detector (GRaND).
  • These findings are consistent with H2O-ice in the subsurface that may be locally exposed by mechanical processes such as impact crater or landslides.


 Johnson K. E. * Singh S. McCord T.

Title: Study of the 2.7 Micron Absorption Band Found on Comet 67P/CG [#2954]

Summary: - The Visible Infrared and Thermal imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) has revealed diversity in the shape of the 2.7 microns detected at the surface of comet nucleus 67P/CG, .

  • One has a double peak characteristic of CO2 (previoulsy identified), and one has a single peak that is probably due to OH (new identification in our study).
  • Hydroxylated phyllosilicates are candidate materials, similar to the composition of the surface of Ceres.




BFI at Methow Elementary School

Posted by admin on January 17, 2017


Dr. Jean-Philippe Combe presents the inner workings of our solar system to fifth graders at Methow Valley Elementary School.


BFI at LPSC 2016

Posted by admin on July 13, 2016

Singh Acetylene Presentation LPSC 2016.JPG

Dr. Singh presents the discovery of acetylene on the surface of Titan

2016 Dawn Team Meeting

Posted by admin on June 21, 2016

Members of NASA's Dawn Space Mission Team gathered in Winthrop for their annual meeting May 31 - June 3, 2016

Throughout the day, presentations and ideas were shared among team members in collaborative workshops.

Thursday evening, June 2nd, Dr. Tom McCord, director of the Bear Fight Institute, and Dr. Marc Rayman of Caltech's Jet Propulsion Lab hosted a public lecture at Sun Mountain Lodge. Nearly 100 members of the local community gathered to hear about Dawn spacecraft development, flight mission operations, and discoveries from orbits about Vesta and Ceres.


On the final night of the team meeting, team members were invited to the home of Dr. Tom and Carol McCord for a relaxing evening of food and fun. Team members started impromptu boat races and BS Bar-B-Que brought all the food.


NASA Europa Mission Announced

Posted by admin on May 27, 2015

The Bear Fight Institute, and director Dr. Thomas McCord, are excited to announce their selection for participation in NASA’s planned mission to Europa.

The Bear Fight Institute, located near Winthrop WA, works with NASA and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory to analyze the surface composition of planetary bodies in our solar system and determine what this tells us about their origin and evolution. BFI uses spacecraft to bring infrared spectrometers close to planets, satellites, asteroids and comets to determine the minerals and molecules composing them.

NASA’s planned Europa mission will conduct detailed reconnaissance of Jupiter’s most intriguing moon. The mission is directed at investigating the liquid water ocean below Europa’s thin icy crust and whether it might be habitable for some forms of life. The mission would be launched in the 2020s, and will reach the Jupiter system several years later.

The Bear Fight Institute is part of a small team of nine scientists from JPL, MIT, USGS, and several universities on the Mapping Imaging Spectrometer for Europa (MISE) investigation. MISE will probe the composition of Europa, identifying and mapping the distributions of organics, salts, acid hydrates, water ice phases, and other materials to determine the nature of Europa’s ocean.

The Bear Fight Institute will aid in designing MISE, planning its operation and measurements, and in analyzing returned data, both at JPL, where the instrument will be constructed, and at BFI, where data and other information will be processed and analyzed.  This new effort will build on BFI’s participation in four other currently active space missions.

Last year, NASA invited researchers to submit proposals for instruments to study Europa. Thirty-three proposals were reviewed. Only nine were selected for the mission. The principal and deputy leaders for the MISE team are Drs. Diana Blaney of JPL and Charles Hibbitts of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, both former graduate students of Dr. McCord, as also is one of the other team members.

Dr. McCord has worked with NASA and JPL for nearly 20 years to plan this mission after his role in producing the first results from the Galileo Mission to Jupiter discovering the ocean beneath Europa’s thin icy crust. Dr. Jean-Philippe Combe, also of BFI, also participated in the mission planning over the past several years to help specify and justify the instrument’s characteristics.

More information can be found here:

Astronomy Day at Pacific Science Center

Posted by admin on May 9, 2015

Resized P1010773.jpg

Dr. Thomas McCord presented NASA's Dawn Mission to a group of future scientists at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle on Astronomy day.

BFI at LPSC 2015

Posted by admin on March 20, 2015


Dr. Thomas McCord points out details of his poster, The Composition of Vesta from all Dawn Data and Analysis, featured at LPSC 2015, Woodlands, Texas


Dr. Jean-Philippe Combe and Dr. Christoph Gross of Freie Universität Berlin discuss Dr. Combe's poster, Dawn at Vesta: Composition of the Northern Regions, featured at LPSC 2015, Woodlands, Texas

Research Presentation by Sandeep Singh

Posted by admin on September 16, 2014

Sandeep Singh describes the research he is conducting at BFI in connection with his PhD dissertation at the University of Arkansas. 

His research topic is "Detection of organics associated with liquid hydrocarbon oceans on Titan, Saturn's largest satellite." This work involves laboratory spectroscopic study of liquid and solid methane, ethane, and acetylene and use of the resulting spectra to search for organics in the Cassini mission spectroscopic observations of Titan.


Sandeep is a native of Punjab, a region of northwest India, adjacent to Pakistan and Kashmir. He is pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Arkansas. He spent two months in residence at the Bear Fight Institute to complete part of his Ph.D. dissertation research using the Cassini mission spectroscopic observations and the BFI analysis tools that the BFI developed.

BFI at LPSC 2014

Posted by admin on April 1, 2014

LPSC 2014_Katie small.png

Doctors Tom McCord and Dr. Jean-Philippe Combe, with Rice University student and former Bear Fight Institute intern, Katherine Johnson

2013 Workshop

Posted by admin on August 5, 2013

Evolution of small icy-silicate bodies 2013

The 6th annual workshop on small icy bodies took place July 29-August 2, 2013 at the Bear Fight Institute. This workshop focused on the active Saturn satellite Enceladus and the internal processes responsible for the geyser activity. Deposits of CO2 frost on the surface were studied as evidence of CO2 activating the geysers.

A workshop to train US Rosetta VIRTIS team members on the instrument performance and data analysis tools was held August 2-4, 2013. BFI's Dr. Jean-Philippe Combe conducted the training program for the four US VIRTIS co-investigators, Drs. Carlson, Fink, Combe, and McCord.

Dr. Thomas B McCord

Posted by admin on July 17, 2013

NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal

Dr. Thomas B. McCord received NASA's Distinguished Public Service Medal in a ceremony, July 17, 2013, at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The medal is NASA's highest form of recognition awarded to any non-government individual whose distinguished service, ability, or vision has personally contributed to NASA's advancement of the United States' interests. Previous recipients include Carl Sagan, Charles Draper, Frank Press, Gerald Wasserburg, Norman Augustine, Lyman Spitzer, Harrison Schmidt and Robert Heinlein.

Dr. McCord received the medal "for exceptional and sustained scientific achievements in understanding the origin and evolution of planetary bodies including the Moon, Mars, Vesta, Ceres, Titan and Europa" and for "making outstanding contributions to the NASA mission."



NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, left, and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden present Thomas McCord with the agency's Distinguished Public Service Medal at a recent ceremony in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of NASA.