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Rajani Dhingra

Photo of Rajani Dhingra


4800 Oak Grove Drive

Pasadena, CA 91109

Member of:

Small Bodies


Rajani's research focuses on the physics of planetary surface processes. She studies light reflected from planetary objects. She has worked on the Earth's Moon, Saturn's largest moon: Titan, New Horizons target Kuiper Belt Object: Arrokoth, and Jupiter's moon: Europa. She has been a part of India's first mission to Moon: Chandrayaan-1 and is currently a team member for the New Horizons team. Meanwhile she has finished her first year of the NASA postdoc fellowship constraining the surface properties of Europa using photometric modeling. She is presently analyzing New Horizons data to study surface roughness of Pluto's surface. She also spends a part of her time at JPL researching on Titan - her favorite planetary body ever. She spends time studying the bright ephemeral features on Titan -- broad specular reflections from the north pole that are transient and shift from flyby to flyby.


  • Ph.D. Physics, 2019, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho.
  • M.S. Physics, 2016, University of Idaho, Moscow Idaho
  • M.S. Physics, 2005, University of Allahabad, Allahabad, India
  • B.Sc – B.Ed , 2003, Regional Institute of Education, Utkal University, India

Professional Experience

  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech, 2019 – NASA PostDoc Fellow
  • TEDx U Idaho Speaker:
  • New Horizons Mission, Geology, Geophysics, and Imaging Team, 2017 - Affiliate Team Member
  • University of Idaho, 2014 – 2019, Research & Teaching Assistant
  • Institute for Plasma Research, Gandhinagar, India, 2008 – 2010, Scientist-C
  • Unilever Research, Bengalooru, India, 2008, Research Associate
  • Indian Space Research Organization, Bengalooru, India, 2006 – 2008, Research Fellow
  • Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, India, 2005 – 2006, Project Associate


  • New Horizons Team member
  • Chandrayaan -1 Team member
  • High Energy X-ray Spectrometer (onboard Chandrayaan-1) team member

Community Service

  • Panel member & External Reviewer, NASA Research Panel, 2020
  • Panel Member, NASA Research Panel, 2019
  • Executive Secretary, NASA Research Panel, 2016 and 2018
  • Member, Roadmap for Ocean Worlds Committee, 2016 - 2018
  • Volunteer Judge, NASA Idaho Space Grant program science competition for high school students (2015)

Research Interests

Planetary surface processes, robotic exploration, spectroscopy, photometry, planetary geomorphology, astrobiology

Selected Awards

  • NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 2019 --
  • Dean’s Graduate Award for the Outstanding Graduating Graduate Student Award, of Physics, University of Idaho
  • Daniel & Leah Frye Chemistry and Physics Scholarship, University of Idaho
  • CoGS (College of Graduate Studies, UI) Travel Award to attend the 2014MU69
  • OPAG (Outer Planetary and Assessment Group) Early career researcher travel support recipient.
  • LPI Career Development Award, 2018, Lunar and Planetary Science Conference
  • Hartmann Student Travel Grant, 2017, Division for Planetary Sciences, American Astronomical Society
  • 3MT (3 Minute Thesis), 2017, Doctoral runner up, University of Idaho
  • 2016 Alumni Award for Excellence, University of Idaho
  • 2016 Recipient of the International Student Scholarship, University of Idaho
  • 2014 Sigma Xi Best Poster Award at College of Science Research Exposition, University of Idaho

Selected Publications

  1. Dhingra R. D., Jennings D. E., Barnes J. W, and Valeria Cottini, “Lower surface temperature at Bright Ephemeral Feature site on Titan’s north pole”, Geophysical Research Letter,
  2. Dhingra R. D., Barnes J. W., Yanites B. J. and Kirk R. L. (1 January, 2018), “Large catchment area recharges Titan’s Ontario Lacus”, Icarus299, 331-338, org/10.1016/j.icarus.2017.08.009
  3. Dhingra R. D., Barnes J. W, Robert H. Brown, B J. Buratti, C. Sotin, P. D. Nicholson, K. H. Baines, R. N. Clark, J. M. Soderblom, Ralph Jaumann, Sebastien Rodriguez, Stephane Le Mouelic, Elizabeth P. Turtle, Jason Perry, Valeria Cottini, and Don Jennings, “Observational evidence for summer rainfall at Titan’s north pole”, Geophysical Research Letter,
  4. Dhingra R.D., Barnes J. W, Hedman M. M, and Radebaugh J., “Using Elliptical Fourier Descriptor Analysis (EFDA) to quantify Titan lake morphology”, The Astronomical Journal, Volume 158, Number 6,
  5. Dhingra R. D., W. Barnes, R. H. Brown, B J. Buratti, C. Sotin, P. D. Nicholson, K. H. Baines, R. N. Clark, J. M. Soderblom, Ralph Jaumann, Sebastien Rodriguez and Stéphane Le Mouélic, “Spatio-Temporal variation of Bright Ephemeral Features on Titan’s North Pole”, The Planetary Science Journal, Volume 1, Number 2, 10.3847/PSJ/ab9c2b
  6. Michael F. Heslar, Jason W. Barnes, Jason M. Soderblom, Benoît Seignovert, Rajani D. Dhingra and Christophe Sotin, “Tidal Currents Detected in Kraken Mare Straits from Cassini VIMS Sun Glitter Observations”, The Planetary Science Journal, Volume 1, Number 2,
  7. JR Spencer, SA Stern, JM Moore, (and 77 others, including R. D. Dhingra) (2020) “The geology and geophysics of Kuiper belt object (486958) Arrokoth”, Science, Volume 367, Issue 6481, id. aay3999 (2020)
  8. C. B. Beddingfield, R. A. Beyer, K. N. Singer, W. B. McKinnon, Kirby Runyon, Will Grundy, S. A. Stern, Veronica Bray, R. D. Dhingra, Jeff M.Moore, K. Ennico, C. B. Olkin, Paul Schenk, John R. Spencer, H. A. Weaver, L. A. Young (2020) “Landslides on Charon”, Icarus 335, 113383 (2020)
  9. Paul Schenk, Kelsi Singer, Ross Beyer, Chloe Beddingfield, Stuart J Robbins, William B McKinnon, Tod R Lauer, Anne J Verbiscer, James T Keane, Rajani D. Dhingra, Jeffrey Moore, Joel W Parker, Cathy Olkin, John Spencer, Hal Weaver, S Alan Stern (2020) “Origins of pits and troughs and degradation on a small primitive planetesimal in the Kuiper Belt: high-resolution topography of (486958) Arrokoth (aka 2014 MU69) from New Horizons”,  Icarus, 113834 (2020)
  10. Moore M., McKinnon W. B., Cruikshank D. P., Gladstone R. D., Spencer J. R., Stern A. S., Weaver H. A., Singer K. N., Showalter M. R., Grundy W. M., Beyer R. A., White O. L., Binzel R. P., Buie M. W., Buratti B. J., Cheng A. F., Howett C., Olkin C. B., Parker A. H., Porter S. B., Schenk P. M., Throop H. B., Verbiscer A. J., Young L. A.,  Benecchi S. D., Bray V. J., Chavez C. L., Dhingra R. D., Howard A. D., Lauer T. R., Lisse C. M., Robbins S. J., Runyon K. D., Umurhan O. M.(August, 2018). “Great Expectations: Plans and Predictions for New Horizons Encounter with Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69 ('Ultima Thule')”, Geophysical Research Letter,
  11. Bertrand T., Forget F., Umurhan O. M., Moore J. M., Young L. A., Protopapa S., Grundy W. M., Schmitt B., Dhingra R. D., Binzel R. P., Earle A. M., Cruikshank D. P., Stern A. S., Weaver H. A., Ennico K., Olkin C.B., and the New Horizons Science Team., (Sept. 2018), “The methane cycles on Pluto over seasonal and astronomical timescales”, Icarus309 (2018): 277-296
  12. Stern, H. A. Weaver, J. R. Spencer, (and 197 other, including R. D. Dhingra) (2019) “Initial results from the first spacecraft exploration of a small Kuiper Belt Object : 2014 MU69”, Science364.6441 (2019): eaaw9771
  13. Pandya S.P., Ajay K., Mishra P., Dhingra R. D.and Govindarajan J. (2013) Core-Ion Temperature Measurement of the ADITYA Tokomak using passive Charge Exchange Neutral Particle Energy Analyzer, Review of Scientific Instruments, 84, 023503,