Sciences and Exploration Directorate

Ann M Parsons


Ann M Parsons's Contact Card & Information.
Org Code: 691
Mail Code 691
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Brief Bio

During my career I have had great experience applying nuclear instrumentation technology to space science missions, beginning with my involvement in the extremely successful Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer launched in 2004. I fully participated in the design, fabrication and calibration of the Swift Burst Alert Explorer (BAT) gamma ray imager as well as its integration with the Swift spacecraft and the following environmental testing. I also actively participated in BAT flight operations and data analysis after launch.

My scientific interests have since broadened to include the study of the origin and evolution of the planets. Since 2007 I have been developing nuclear detector systems for planetary science applications. My knowledge of gamma ray, neutron and x-ray detectors used for astrophysics transferred easily to the gamma ray neutron technology used for determining the bulk elemental composition of the surface and near sub-surface of planetary bodies. Upon Dr. Jacob Trombka's retirement in 2009, I became the leader of a nuclear planetary science instrumentation program at Goddard. I have developed new flight instrumentation capabilities within the group by managing both NASA and internally-funded instrument development programs to produce an active gamma ray-neutron elemental composition measurement instrument for landed Planetary Science applications. I have worked in close partnership with Schlumberger Technology Corporation to adapt their Pulsed Neutron Generator (PNG) used in the oil industry to space flight applications. This instrument technology forms the basis of the Dragonfly Gamma ray Neutron Spectrometer (DraGNS) aboard the selected Dragonfly mission to explore the surface of Titan. Dragonfly will launch in 2027 and will arrive at Titan after 2034. This technology is also being tuned to the needs of a lunar science elemental composition instrument through the development of the Bulk Elemental Composition Analyzer (BECA) funded through the Development and Advancement of Lunar Instrumentation ( DALI) program.

To facilitate the development of such bulk elemental composition instruments, I have built a unique facility near Goddard for the safe testing and calibration of instruments that emit hazardous radiation such as the high energy neutrons from a PNG. Situated out at Goddard’s Geophysical and Astronomical Observatory (GGAO), this outdoor Gamma ray Neutron Test Facility (GNTF) allows users to safely operate high-energy gamma ray and neutron radiation instruments on top of large granite and basalt samples. With underground power and Ethernet feeds to the test location, experimenters can safely operate their instruments from a building 60 meters away. This GNTF is available for use by outside collaborators.

Current Projects

Dragonfly New Frontiers Mission to Titan

Planetary surfaces

Science Co-Investigator - the Dragonfly mission will explore the surface chemistry and look for possible astrobiological signatures at multiple locations on the surface of Saturn's Moon, Titan. Dragonfly is a relocatable lander with the ability to fly to different geological environments over Titan's surface to gain a more diverse understanding of Titan's surface chemical processes.

Dragonfly Gamma ray Neutron Spectrometer (DraGNS)

Technology & Missions

DraGNS PNG Lead - the Dragonfly Gamma ray Neutron Spectrometer (DraGNS) instrument will measure the bulk elemental composition of Titan materials beneath the lander down to 10's of centimeters below the surface. Critical elements such as C, H, N, O Na, Mg, P, S,Cl, and K will measured by DraGNS to provide the overall geochemical context for surface chemistry measurements made by other Dragonfly instruments.

Bulk Elemental Composition Analyzer (BECA)

Technology & Missions

Principal Investigator - This Development and Advancement of Lunar Instrumentation ( DALI) program will mature the Pulsed Neutron Generator (PNG)- gamma ray and neutron spectrometer technology and tune it to the needs of a landed lunar science elemental composition instrument.



Astrochemistry Laboratory (Code 691), Solar System Exploration Division, NASA/ Goddard Space Flight Center - Greenbelt, MD 20771

August 2007 - Present


Astroparticle Physics Laboratory (Code 661), Astrophysics Science Division, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - Greenbelt, MD 20771

January 1995 - August 2007

Postdoctoral Fellow

National Research Council - NASA/ Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771

May 1993 - January 1995

Teaching Experience

Supervised 3 Ph D Students:

2013 Suzanne Nowicki, Department of Applied Physics, University of Michigan
Thesis title: “Characterization of Pixelated CdZnTe Gamma-Ray Detectors at High Energies for In Situ Planetary Science Applications”

2013 Julia Bodnarik, Department of Physics and Astronomy,Vanderbilt University
Thesis title: “Using In Situ Neutron and Gamma–ray Spectroscopy to Characterize Asteroids”

2006 Derek Hullinger, Department of Physics, University of Maryland
Thesis title: “Early Afterglow Evolution of X-Ray Flashes Observed By Swift”


1993 - PhD, Physics, University of California, Berkeley
1986 - BS with High Distinction and Highest Honors, Physics, University of Michigan

Professional Societies

American Astronomical Society, Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS)

2007 - Present

American Geophysical Union

2018 - Present

Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)

2012 - Present


2019 Robert H Goddard Award for Exceptional Achievement for Science

2011 Robert H Goddard Award for Exceptional Achievement for Science – Planetary Geochemical Instrument Team

2007 Shared the AAS Bruno Rossi Prize with the rest of the Swift Team "for gamma-ray burst discoveries with the Swift mission"

2006 NASA Honor Award for Group Achievement - Swift BAT Instrument Team

Professional Service

2017- present        Contracting Officer's Representative for the NASA Postdoctoral Program 

Talks, Presentations and Posters


Gamma-ray and Neutron Spectrometers for Planetary Science Missions

October 2019

Vistas in Detector Physics Workshop, Kirchoff Institute fur Physik, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany 

Nuclear Techniques for the Planetary Sciences

July 2019

The 2019 International Conference on Applications of Nuclear Techniques, Crete, Greece

The Bulk Elemental Composition Analyzer (BECA)

April 2019

Goddard Engineering Colloquium




2021. "Active neutron interrogation experiments and simulation verification using the SIngle-scintillator Neutron and Gamma-Ray spectrometer (SINGR) for geosciences." Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment 165883 [] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Science Goals and Objectives for the Dragonfly Titan Rotorcraft Relocatable Lander." The Planetary Science Journal 2 (4): 130 [10.3847/psj/abfdcf] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Lunar Cellular Network Neutron Spectrometer." Lunar Surface Science Workshop (LPI Contrib No. 2241) (id. 5147): [Proceedings]

2020. "SNFLER: Surface Neutron Flux with Lunar Empirical Ratio." Lunar Surface Science Workshop (LPI Contrib No. 2241) id. 5060 [Proceedings]

2020. "Review of Nuclear Techniques for Planetary Science." International Journal of Modern Physics: Conference Series 50 (3): 2060004: 1-10 [Full Text] [10.1142/S2010194520600046] [Proceedings]

2018. "Calibration and Validation of the Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector (LEND) Observations for the Study of the Moon's Volatiles." Space Science Reviews [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "Measuring Surface Bulk Elemental Composition on Venus." Physics Procedia 90 180-186 [10.1016/j.phpro.2017.09.056] [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "Modeled Martian subsurface elemental composition measurements with the Probing In situ with Neutron and Gamma ray instrument." Earth and Space Science 4 (2): 76-90 [10.1002/2016ea000162] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "Modeling orbital gamma-ray spectroscopy experiments at carbonaceous asteroids." Meteoritics & Planetary Science 52 (1): 174-190 [10.1111/maps.12786] [Journal Article/Letter]

2015. "Evidence for the sequestration of hydrogen-bearing volatiles towards the Moon’s southern pole-facing slopes." Icarus 255 88-99 [10.1016/j.icarus.2014.10.001] [Journal Article/Letter]

2013. "Development of a quasi-monoenergetic 6 MeV Gamma Facility at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center." Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research A [10.1016/j.nima.2012.12.066] [Journal Article/Letter]

2013. "Time-resolved neutron/gamma-ray data acquisition for in situ subsurface planetary geochemistry." Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research A [10.1016/j.nima.2012.12.110] [Journal Article/Letter]

2013. "Subsurface In situ elemental composition measurements with PING." Proceedings of the Aerospace Conference, 2013 IEEE. 2-9 March 2013. Big Sky, MT. ISBN: 978-1-4673-1812-9, id.111 [10.1109/AERO.2013.6496922] [Journal Article/Letter]

2011. "Active neutron and gamma-ray instrumentation for in situ planetary science applications." Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research A 652 674-679 [10.1016/j.nima.2010.09.157] [Journal Article/Letter]

2011. "Prompt Emission Properties of Swift GRBs." GAMMA RAY BURSTS 2010 AIP Conference Proceedings 1358 51 [Full Text] [10.1063/1.3621736] [Journal Article/Letter]

2011. "The second Swift BAT GRB catalog (BAT2) (Sakamoto+, 2011)." VizieR On-line Data Catalog: J/ApJS/195/2 Originally published in: 2011ApJS1952S 219 50002 [Full Text] [Journal Article/Letter]

2011. "The Second Swift Burst Alert Telescope Gamma-Ray Burst Catalog." The Astrophysical Journal Supplement [10.1088/0067-0049/195/1/2] [Journal Article/Letter]

2011. "Spectral Cross-Calibration of the Konus-Wind, the Suzaku/WAM, and the Swift/BAT Data Using Gamma-Ray Bursts." Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan 63 (1): 215 [Full Text] [10.1093/pasj/63.1.215] [Journal Article/Letter]

2011. "Probing the nature of short swift bursts via deep INTEGRAL monitoring of GRB 050925." Advances in Space Research 47 1346 [Full Text] [10.1016/j.asr.2010.08.004] [Journal Article/Letter]

2010. "The 22 Month Swift-BAT All-Sky Hard X-ray Survey." The Astrophysical Journal Supplement 186 378 [Full Text] [10.1088/0067-0049/186/2/378] [Journal Article/Letter]

2009. "E peak Estimator for Gamma-Ray Bursts Observed by the Swift Burst Alert Telescope." The Astrophysical Journal 693 922 [Full Text] [10.1088/0004-637X/693/1/922] [Journal Article/Letter]

2009. "GRB 081203A: Swift UVOT captures the earliest ultraviolet spectrum of a gamma-ray burst." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters 395 L21 [Full Text] [10.1111/j.1745-3933.2009.00632.x] [Journal Article/Letter]

2008. "The First Swift BAT Gamma-Ray Burst Catalog." The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series 175 179 [Full Text] [10.1086/523646] [Journal Article/Letter]

2008. "Global Properties of X-Ray Flashes and X-Ray-Rich Gamma-Ray Bursts Observed by Swift." The Astrophysical Journal 679 570 [Full Text] [10.1086/586884] [Journal Article/Letter]

2006. "A new γ-ray burst classification scheme from GRB060614." Nature 444 1044 [Full Text] [10.1038/nature05376] [Journal Article/Letter]

2006. "Confirmation of the Esrcpeak-Eiso (Amati) Relation from the X-Ray Flash XRF 050416AObserved by the Swift Burst Alert Telescope." The Astrophysical Journal 636 L73 [Full Text] [10.1086/500261] [Journal Article/Letter]

2006. "Swift Panchromatic Observations of the Bright Gamma-Ray Burst GRB 050525a." The Astrophysical Journal 637 901 [Full Text] [10.1086/498425] [Journal Article/Letter]

2005. "A short gamma-ray burst apparently associated with an elliptical galaxy at redshift z = 0.225." Nature 437 851-854 [10.1038/nature04142] [Journal Article/Letter]

2005. "An infrared flash contemporaneous with the γ-rays of GRB 041219a." Nature 435 181 [Full Text] [10.1038/nature03520] [Journal Article/Letter]

2005. "A giant γ-ray flare from the magnetar SGR 1806 - 20." Nature 434 1107 [Full Text] [10.1038/nature03525] [Journal Article/Letter]

2005. "A link between prompt optical and prompt γ-ray emission in γ-ray bursts." Nature 435 178 [Full Text] [10.1038/nature03515] [Journal Article/Letter]

2005. "A short γ-ray burst apparently associated with an elliptical galaxy at redshift z = 0225." Nature 437 851 [Full Text] [10.1038/nature04142] [Journal Article/Letter]

2005. "Follow up ability for GRB observations on Swift." Il Nuovo Cimento C, vol 28, Issue 4, p837 28 837 [Full Text] [10.1393/ncc/i2005-10168-3] [Journal Article/Letter]

2005. "The Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) on the SWIFT Midex Mission." Space Science Reviews 120 143 [Full Text] [10.1007/s11214-005-5096-3] [Journal Article/Letter]

2005. "Erratum: ``The Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Mission'' (ApJ, 611, 1005 [2004])." The Astrophysical Journal 621 558 [Full Text] [10.1086/427409] [Journal Article/Letter]

2005. "A short γ-ray burst apparently associated with an elliptical galaxy at redshift z = 0.225." Nature 437 (7060): 851-854 [Full Text] [10.1038/nature04142] [Journal Article/Letter]

2004. "Swift's Ability to Detect Gamma-Ray Bursts." Baltic Astronomy, Vol 13, p 301-306 13 301 [Full Text] [Journal Article/Letter]

2004. "The Swift Gamma‐Ray Burst Mission." The Astrophysical Journal 611 (2): 1005-1020 [Full Text] [10.1086/422091] [Journal Article/Letter]


2016. "Pulsed neutron generator — gamma ray spectrometer measurements of venus elemental composition." 2016 IEEE Nuclear Science Symposium, Medical Imaging Conference and Room-Temperature Semiconductor Detector Workshop (NSS/MIC/RTSD) [10.1109/nssmic.2016.8069877] [Proceedings]

2015. "DARe: Dark Asteroid Rendezvous." Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 46 2835 [Proceedings]

2015. "Investigating the Effects of Cosmic Ray Exposure on Amino Acids in Meteorites: Implications for Future Small Body Sample Return Missions ." LPI Contributions 1829 6003- [Proceedings]

2014. "Orbital Measurement of Bulk Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Sulfur of Carbonaceous Asteroids via High Energy Resolution Gamma-Ray Spectroscopy." AAS/Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting Abstracts 46 #415.07 [Proceedings]

2013. "'Where to Hide?': A Tele-Robotic Application for HEOMD's Earth-Moon L2 Mission." Lunar and Planetary Institute Science Conference Abstracts 44 2514 [Journal Article/Letter]

2009. "AFWA-CCMC Partnership to Augment USAF Space Weather Forecasting Capabilities." AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts A3- [Journal Article/Letter]

Selected Public Outreach

"The Dragonfly Mission to Titan", James Robert Walker Lecture, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

November 2020 - November 2020

Public talk presented virtually in 10/2020 as part of the University of Michigan's Saturday Morning Physics Series