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Tom Nordheim

Photo of Tom Nordheim


4800 Oak Grove Drive
M/S 183-301

Pasadena, CA 91109



Member of:

Planetary Interiors and Geophysics


Tom Nordheim is a planetary scientist and roboticist working in the Planetary Interiors and Geophysics group at JPL. His research focuses on the surface chemistry and habitability of icy moons, with a particular emphasis on Saturn's moon Enceladus and Jupiter's moon Europa. This work is carried out using a combination of remote and in-situ spacecraft data, computer modeling and laboratory experiments. In addition to this, he also works on the development of robots and instrumentation for use in cold and extreme environments on Earth.

He completed his PhD in Space Physics at University College London, where he studied charged particle interactions at unmagnetized planetary bodies using data from the Cassini and Venus Express spacecraft. He has also worked on topics such as cosmic ray interactions with the atmosphere of Venus, electrical phenomena at comets, and has participated in the development of mission concepts for future exploration of Europa and the ice giants Uranus and Neptune. He is a participating scientist on the NASA JUNO mission to Jupiter, a member of the project science team for the Europa Lander mission concept and is a science team affiliate on the Europa Clipper mission. He was previously a member of the science team for the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer investigation.


  • PhD in Space Physics, University College London (2016)
  • MSc in Space Studies, International Space University (2010)
  • BSc in Space Science & Robotics, Aberystwyth University(2009)

Professional Experience

  • Deputy director, Ocean Worlds Laboratory, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2019-Present)
  • Research Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2018-Present)
  • NASA Postdoctoral Fellow, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2015-2018)
  • JPL Graduate Fellow intern, Planetary Ices Group, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2011)
  • Graduate Researcher, Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London (2010-2015)
  • Intern, In Situ Instruments Group, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2010)

Research Interests

  • Plasma and magnetospheric physics
  • Remote sensing spectroscopy of icy bodies
  • Astrobiology and habitability of ocean worlds
  • Cosmic ray interactions in planetary atmospheres
  • Future exploration of Uranus and Neptune
  • Space and planetary robotics

Selected Awards

  • NASA Group Achievement Award - Cassini Plasma Spectrometer Team (2018)
  • Sir Arthur Clarke Award (2018)
  • JPL Voyager Award (2018)
  • NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellowship (2015)
  • UCL Graduate Research Scholarship for Cross-disciplinary Training (2012)
  • JPL Graduate Fellowship (2011)
  • UCL Graduate Research Scholarship (2010)
  • SR-Bank G9ALT award for talented youth in Norway (2010)
  • Sir Granville Beynon Prize (2009)

Selected Publications

  1. Nordheim, T. A. et al, Detection of negative pickup ions at Saturn's moon Dione. Geophysical Research Letters. 47 (7). (2020)
  2. Cartwright, R. J., Beddingfield, C. B., Nordheim, T. A. et al., Evidence for ammonia-bearing species on the Uranian satellite Ariel supports recent geologic activity. Astrophysical Journal Letters. 898(1), L22. (2020)
  3. Jasinski, J. M., Nordheim, T. A., Hasegawa, Y., Murphy, N., The Importance of Local Interstellar Conditions on the Galactic Cosmic-Ray Spectrum at Exoplanets. Astrophysical Journal Letters. 899(1), L18. (2020)
  4. Aplin, K. L., Fischer, G., Nordheim, T. A. et al., Atmospheric Electricity at the Ice Giants. Space Science Reviews, 216 (2). (2020)
  5. Regoli, L. H., Moldwin, M. B., Raines, C., Nordheim, T. A. et al., Radiation tolerance of the PNI RM3100 magnetometer for a Europa lander mission. Geoscientific Instrumentation. (2020),/li>
  6. Herbst, K., Banjac, S., Atri, D., and Nordheim, T. A., Revisiting the cosmic-ray induced Venusian radiation dose in the context of habitability, Astronomy & Astrophysics, A15, 633. (2020)
  7. Jasinski, J. M. et al. (including Nordheim, T. A.), Saturn's open‐closed field line boundary: A Cassini electron survey at Saturn's magnetosphere. J. Geophys. Research: Space Physics. 124(12). (2019)
  8. Nordheim, T. A., Jasinski, J. M., Hand, K. P., Galactic Cosmic-Ray Bombardment of Europa’s Surface. Astrophysical Journal Letters. 881(2), L39. (2019)
  9. Ligier N., Paranicas, C., Carter, J., Poulet, F., Calvin, W.M., Nordheim, T.A., Snodgrass, C., Ferellec, L. Surface composition and properties of Ganymede: updates from ground-based observations with the near-infrared imaging spectrometer SINFONI/VLT/ESO. Icarus. 333, 496-515. (2019)
  10. Herbst, K., Banjac, S. and Nordheim, T. A., Revisiting the cosmic-ray induced Venusian ionization with the Atmospheric Radiation Interaction Simulator (AtRIS), Astronomy & Astrophysics, A124, 624. (2019)
  11. Hendrix, A. R. et al. (including Nordheim, T. A.), The NASA Roadmap to Ocean Worlds, Astrobiology 19 (1), 1-27. (2019)
  12. Nordheim, T. A. et al., Preservation of potential biosignatures in the shallow subsurface of Europa, Nature Astronomy, 2, 673-679. (2019)
  13. Johnson, R.J., Oza, A. V., Leblanc, F., Schmidt, C., Nordheim, T. A., The Origin and Fate of O2 in Europa's Ice: an Atmospheric Perspective (Space Science Reviews. 315 (1). (2019)
  14. Howett, C. J. A, Hendrix, A. R., Nordheim, T. A. et al., Ring and Magnetosphere Interactions with Satellite Surfaces, in Enceladus and the Icy Moons of Saturn by University of Arizona Press (2018)
  15. Teolis, B.D., Tokar, R. L., Cassidy, T. A., Khurana, K. K., Nordheim, T. A., Icy Moon Atmospheres / Exospheres from Magnetospheric Interactions, in Enceladus and the Icy Moons of Saturn by University of Arizona Press. 2018
  16. Desai, R. T. et al. (including Nordheim, T. A.)Cassini CAPS identification of pickup ion compositions at Rhea. Geophysical Research Letters. 45 (4), 1704-1712. (2018)
  17. Paranicas, C. et al. (including Nordheim, T. A.), Magnetospheric considerations for solar system ice state, Icarus 302, 560-564. (2018)
  18. Cui, J., Wu, X-S., Xu, S-S., Wang, X-D., Wellbrock, A., Nordheim, T. A. et al., Ionization Efficiency in the Dayside Martian Upper Atmosphere, Astrophysical Journal Letters, 857 (2). (2018)
  19. Hand, K. P. et al. (including Nordheim, T. A.), Report of the Europa Lander Science Definition Team. (2017). Available at:
  20. Nordheim, T. A. et al.,The near-surface electron radiation environment of Saturn's moon Mimas, Icarus, 286, 56-68. (2017)
  21. Collinson, G. A. et al. (including Nordheim, T. A.), The electric wind of Venus: A global and persistent “polar wind”‐like ambipolar electric field sufficient for the direct escape of heavy ionospheric ions, Geophysical Research Letters, 43 (12), 5926-5934. (2016)
  22. Plainaki, C., Lilensten, J., Radioti, A., Andriopoulou, M., Milillo, A., Nordheim, T. A., et al., Planetary space weather: scientific aspects and future perspectives, Journal of Space Weather and Space Climate, 6, A31. (2016)
  23. Nordheim, T. A. et al., Surface charging and electrostatic dust acceleration at the nucleus of comet 67P during periods of low activity, Planetary and Space Science, 119, 2-35. (2015)
  24. Nordheim T. A. et al., Ionization of the venusian atmosphere from solar and galactic cosmic rays, Icarus, 245, 80-86. (2015)
  25. Calzada-Diaz, A., Joy, K. H., Crawford, I. A., Nordheim, T. A., Constraining the source regions of lunar meteorites using orbital geochemical data, Meteoritics & Planetary Science, 50, 214-228. (2015)
  26. Bocanegra-Bahamon, T. et al. (including Nordheim, T. A.), MUSE–Mission to the Uranian system: Unveiling the evolution and formation of ice giants, Advances in Space Research, 55, 2190-2216. (2015)
  27. Dartnell, L. R., Nordheim, T. A. et al., Constraints on a potential aerial biosphere on Venus: I. Cosmic rays, Icarus, 257, 396-405 (2015)
  28. Nordheim T. A. et al., Detection of a strongly negative surface potential at Saturn's moon Hyperion, Geophysical Research Letters, 41, 7011-7018. (2014)
  29. Arridge, C. S. et al. (including Nordheim, T. A.), The science case for an orbital mission to Uranus: Exploring the origins and evolution of ice giant planets, Planetary and Space Science, 104, 122-140. (2014)
  30. Paranicas, C. et al (including Nordheim, T. A.), The lens feature on the inner saturnian satellites, Icarus, 234, 155-161. (2014)
  31. Lee, A., Bedington, R., Comandar, L., Daurskikh, A., Hills, M., Hu, D., Lee, R., Nordheim, T. A., Polecats - a plasma instrumentation technology demonstration for REXUS-14, Proceedings of 21st ESA Symposium on Rocket and Ballon Programmes and Related Research, Thun 2013, 469-472. (2013)
  32. Brodsky, Y., Rieber, R., Nordheim, T. A., Balloon-borne air traffic management (ATM) as a precursor to space-based ATM, Acta Astronautica, 70, 112-121. (2012)
  33. Zhang, G. L., Nordheim, T. A., Rosenberg, M., Hammons, E., An Analog Roadmap to Mars: Recommendations for Policymakers and Space Agencies, Proceedings of the AIAA Space Conference, Anaheim 2010, 8847-8865. (2010)
  34. Nordheim, T. A., Luong, R., Rosenberg, M., Hammons, E., Analog Studies for preparation of human missions to the Moon and Mars, Proceedings of the Global Lunar Exploration Conference, Beijing 2010, GLUC-2010-3.5.9. (2010)