Professor Erik Asphaug

"The Big Splat",
January 19, 2012, Cowell Conference Room, 11:30am


Erik Asphaug is a Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences who studies the origins of planets and minor solar system bodies and the geology of comets, asteroids, Mars and the Moon.  His work is mostly theoretical but he also participates in solar system exploration missions. He joined UCSC in 1998 and helped found its planetary sciences program, which today is one of the best in the world.  Today he will focus on his research into collisions, which has led to new understandings regarding the origin of the Moon, the origin of meteorites, and the diversity of planets.  Specifically he will present models for how the Moon formed in a giant impact (now generally accepted) and will argue that the 'icing on the cake' was a big splat, where a companion moon broke free from a resonant orbit some 100 million years after the giant impact and collided at low velocity (~2 km/s) into the Moon, pasting on a thick cold crust constituting the far side highlands.  For more information see ,

Erik received his B.A. in Mathematics and English, Rice University, Houston and his Ph.D. in Planetary Sciences (minor in geophysics), University of Arizona, Tucson