Sciences and Exploration Directorate

Casey I Honniball


Casey I Honniball's Contact Card & Information.
Phone: 301.614.6749
Org Code: 698
Mail Code 698
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Brief Bio

Dr. Casey I. Honniball is a Visiting Assistant Research Scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park on a co-operative agreement with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona with a B.S. in Astronomy and completed her Masters in Geology and Geophysics and Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Science from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Dr. Honniball has extensive experience in astronomical observing, instrumentation, and telescope operation. Dr. Honniball has extensive experience in observing, instrumentation, and telescope operation. At UA, she aided in the development of a submillimeter instrument, SuperCam, including laboratory testing and integration of the instrument at Mt. Graham and Llano de Chajnantor Observatories. She was also a member of the Stratospheric Terahertz Observatory Two (STO-II) instrument team, aiding in telescope integration and testing. After graduation from UA and after matriculation at the University of Hawai'i she remained on the STO-II team and in two Antarctic deployments was a telescope operator during flight operations.

As a graduate student at the University of Hawai'i she was responsible for assembly, test, and deployment of a 3-5 µm imaging interferometer (MIDAS, Mid infrared detector of atmospheric species) used for terrestrial atmospheric and volcanological studies and as a prototype for a small satellite instrument. She co-led a large-scale survey of the mid-IR hydration properties of lunar surface using the SpeX cross-dispersed spectrograph at the NASA InfraRed Telescope Facility (IRTF). She led and participated in 37 observing runs with 16 of those runs as P.I. of the project. Dr. Honniball originated the project to use the NASA/DLR Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) to search for the 6 µm molecular water signature on the lunar surface and has had two observing runs on SOFIA with 20 more hours planned.

As an NASA Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Honniball continued lunar observations with the IRTF and SOFIA and works to connect the behavior of the 3 and 6 µm hydration bands on the Moon. Using those two telescopes she maps pyroclastic deposits, crater central peaks, and high latitudes at both wavelengths investigating the distribution and behavior of hydroxyl and molecular water. She is also a member of the Remote, In Situ, and Synchrotron Studies for Science and Exploration 2 (RISE2) SSERVI team testing how a portable infrared spectral imaging instrument can enhance the science return of geological field work and extra vehicular activities on other planetary bodies.

Dr. Honniball continues to participate with RISE2 and the characterization of hydroxyl and water with the IRTF and SOFIA and is a Co-I on the NASA Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) mission. As a VIPER team member she will compare the exchange of volatiles with the lunar surface and exosphere and will use the IRTF and SOFIA to place VIPER measurements into regional context. She continues to work on instrument development through participation on a PICASSO developing the Tunable Infrared (2 to 4 μm) Spectroscopic Imaging Lidar (TINSIL) instrument. TINSIL combines the continuous spectral sampling of a spectrometer with the active illumination and ranging capabilities of a lidar.

Current Projects

Investigation of water at pyroclastic deposits on the Earth and Moon using new data sets and techniques

Remote Sensing

Remote, In Situ, and Synchrotron Studies for Science and Exploration - Solar System Exploitation Research Virtual Institute

Mapping the water molecule on the Moon using SOFIA - Science PI

Remote Sensing

Using the Faint Object infraRed CAmera for the SOFIA Telescope (FORCAST) on the NASA/DLR Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) we are conducting a survey of the Moon to characterize the behavior and distribution of molecular water at 6 µm. We recently made the first unambiguous detection of molecular water on the sunlit lunar surface at 6 µm [Honniball et al., 2020]. With 6 additional hours of observations with SOFIA in cycle 9 we begin addressing diurnal variability of H2O. In addition, in support of NASA's Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) polar rover, we aim to characterize H2O in the region of the Nobile landing site. In this project we address key questions surrounding our initial detection of water: Where is the water located within the surface and across the Moon? How does it behave over the period of a lunar day? Do small geologic targets contain internal H2O? To address these questions, we collect spectra of multiple locations at different lunar times of day. We observe locations that span a wide range of latitudes, capturing variations with latitude, different compositions, and locations that are of high priority for potential landing sites, to estimate the abundance of water providing essential information regarding the potential of in-situ resource utilization.

Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER)

As a VIPER Co-I, Dr. Honniball will investigate the volatile system at the VIPER landing site and traverse area through characterizing the behavior of two key compounds that differ greatly in volatility: water and methane. This project addresses two main questions: Do water and methane readily exchange with the lunar surface on diurnal timescales? What role do micro cold traps and shadows play at retaining volatiles? The VIPER is a mobile laboratory allowing experiments to be conducted on the surface of the Moon to better understand the contemporary lunar volatile cycle. In addition to data from the Near-Infrared Volatiles Spectrometer System (NIRVSS), the Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Observations (MSolo), and the Longwave Calibration Sensor (LCS), Dr. Honniball will use Earth-based observations of hydration and water on the Moon to support and place the VIPER observations into a broader regional context.


NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow

Universities Space Research Association - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

January 2020 - Present

Water contents of lunar pyroclastic deposits is under debate due to differences between remote sensing data and Apollo sample measurements. The disagreement stems from the lack of wavelength coverage of current spacecraft data. Using two new data sets and new techniques we will provide better estimates of water and distinguish between OH and H2O. We will perform field studies to sample analog pyroclastic deposits and investigate the accuracy of remote sensing data in estimating the abundance of water in samples. The samples will be used to further develop techniques for distinguishing between OH and H2O.

Graduate Research Assistant

Hawai’i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology - University of Hawai’i at Mānoa

August 2015 - December 2019

Investigating the presence of molecular water on the lunar surface using the NASA Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). Developed a new technique that allows for the direct detection of molecular water using the 6 µm H-O-H bend vibration. Conducted observations on SOFIA of the 6 µm region. Data acquired at high southern latitudes display a strong 6 µm emission band due to the presence of molecular water. This observation is the first direct detection of molecular water on the illuminated Moon.

Conducting observations of the lunar surface at 3 µm from the groundbased NASA InfraRed Telescope Facility (IRTF) to resolve controversies on the variation of the 3 µm band. Using the longer wavelengths provided by the IRTF we are able to completely and accurately remove thermal emission from reflectance spectra. This provides better estimates of total water abundance using the 3 µm band and informs on the reality of diurnal variation. Data collected at many lunar times of day do show that the 3 µm band varies implying that either molecular water is present and migrating on the surface or that hydrogen is diffusing through the lunar soil. Participated in 37 observing runs with 16 runs as the P.I.

Built and characterized the Miniaturized Infrared Detector of Atmospheric Species (MIDAS). MIDAS is a small uncooled mid-wave infrared hyperspectral imager developed to test its ability to accurately measure the gas contents. Instruments like MIDAS are attractive for small satellite platforms due to their light weight, compactness, and conservative power consumption. We demonstrated that a small uncooled instrument can produce signal-to-noise ratios in the hundreds for targets above 70˚ C. MIDAS was later deployed three times to the Kilauea lava lake to test its portability and accuracy in measuring volcanic CO2. Data from these field deployments showed that MIDAS is capable of accurate measurements and is well suited for field portability and or modification to small satellite platforms.

Summer Intern

Lunar Planetary Institute - Center for Lunar Science and Exploration

May 2018 - August 2018

Investigate the soil mechanics of lunar pyroclastic deposits and permanently shadowed regions using boulder tracks to infer the trafficability of these regions. Used LRO NAC imagery to identify and measure boulders and their associated tracks to calculate soil properties.

Volunteer Research Specialist

University of Arizona - Steward Observatory Radio Astronomy Laboratory

December 2015 - January 2017

Member of the Stratospheric Terahertz Observatory two (STO-II) instrument team to prepare STO-II for launch on a high-altitude balloon at the Long Duration Balloon facility in Antarctica. Responsible for instrument-telescope alignment, instrument testing, mission control, and operating the observatory for 12 hour shifts. Two Antarctic deployments.

Summer Intern

University of Colorado Boulder LASP - Atmospheric & Space Technology Research Associates

May 2014 - August 2014

Unambiguously characterized the ionospheric global response to Sudden Stratospheric Warming events using the Ionospheric Data Assimilation Four-Dimensional algorithm.

Undergraduate Research Specialist

Steward Observatory Radio Astronomy Laboratory - University of Arizona

September 2012 - July 2015

Assisted in development, testing and deployment of multiple instruments designed to observe terahertz frequencies to connect the full life cycle of interstellar material within the Milky Way. Aided in SuperCam instrument testing in preparation for integration onto the Submillimeter Telescope on Mt. Graham, Arizona and the APEX telescope at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. Assisted in telescope operations and observing for three instrument deployments.

Student Technician

Instrumentation Development Laboratory - University of Hawai’i at Mānoa

September 2010 - May 2012

With other Instrumentation Development Laboratory (IDLab) staff, assisted with the assembly and operation of the imaging time-of-propagation (iTOP) detector in a beam test at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). The iTOP is intended for identification of charged kaons and pions in the Belle II detector at KEK in Tsukuba, Japan. Specific duties included assembly of electronics modules for the readout of photon detectors, including fine pitch (2 mm) soldering of surface mount components, verification and debugging of electronics performance using Xilinx Chipscope diagnostic software, and on-site data quality monitoring to ensure proper operation of electronics during the beam test.


Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Science - October 2019
University of Hawai’i at Mānoa
Dissertation: Infrared Remote Sensing of Volatile Components on the Earth and Moon
Advisor: Dr. Paul Lucey

M.S. in Geology and Geophysics - December 2017
University of Hawai’i at Mānoa
Project: Spectral response of microbolometers for hyperspectral imaging
Advisor: Dr. Robert Wright Mentor: Dr. Paul Lucey

B.S. in Astronomy - December 2014
University of Arizona
Minor: Mathematics
Advisor: Dr. Chris Walker

Professional Societies

American Geophysical Union

2017 - Present

Professional Service

Reviewer for numerous scientific journals and NASA review panels.

NASA Science Instrument Definition Team Member, Gondola for High Altitude Planetary Science - 2016 Define the scope of thermal infrared science investigations, derive the science requirements and instrument concepts for GHAPS, as well as prioritize the instruments according to science priorities that address Planetary Science Decadal Survey questions.


2020 Best SOFIA Thesis of the Year

2018 UH Graduate Division Graduate Achievement Award

2017 AGU Outstanding Student Poster Award, 2017

2014 Williams F. Lucas Astronomy Scholarship

2010 ASUH Scholarship for Unique Situation/Non-Traditional Student


Mapping the water molecule on the Moon using SOFIA

Solar System Observations - NASA - Awarded: 2020-09-10

Dates: 2021-01-15  - 2024-01-15

Water abundance on the Moon from 6 µm observations

SOFIA Observing Cycle 8 Program - NASA/DLR Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) - Awarded: 2020-01-16

Dates: 2020-04-25  - 2021-04-24

Water abundance on the Moon from 6 µm observations

SOFIA Observing Cycle 7 Program - NASA/DLR Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) - Awarded: 2019-01-06

Dates: 2019-04-27  - 2020-04-27

Chemistry and transport of water on the Moon 1/9/2019 PI

NASA Infrared Telescope Facility Observing Proposals - NASA Infrared Telescope Facility - Awarded: 2019-01-09

Dates:  - 

Other Professional Information

Outreach Experience

2021 Summersill Elementary School Scientist of the week - 1st grade students

2021 NASA GSFC International Observe the Moon Night - Ask a scientist

2021 Night Sky Network (Link)

2021 Universe Today Weekly Hangout (Link)

2020 Gates Chili Middle School – 7th grade science students 

2020 Astronomy on tap, Los Angeles (Link)

2020 Honors Astronomy and Earth & Space Missions (EAS) – high school STEM students 

2020 NASA’s SOFIA Discovers Water on Sunlit Surface of Moon – Speaker on numerous TV, radio, and podcast networks and interviewed for 20+ articles (Press release)

2020 NASA GSFC International Observe the Moon Night (Link)

2017-18 RIS4E Astronaut EVA simulation field deployment 

2017 SOEST open house ‘Colors of space’ booth coordinator and demonstration volunteer 

2016 Observatory operator, Stratospheric Terahertz Observatory-II (STO-II), McMurdo Antarctica 2015 SOEST open house ‘Colors of space’ demonstration volunteer 

Invited Presentations

2021 University of Maryland, College Park, Geology Dept.

2021 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Colloquium

2021 University of Maryland, College Park, Astronomy Dept.

2021 SOFIA Community Tele-Talk Series

2021 University of Maryland, College Park, Physics Dept. 

2020 Lunar Planetary Institute Seminar 

2020 AGU Fall Meeting 

2020 SOFIA’s contribution to Solar System science 

2020 Devision for Planetary Science

2020 University of California, Santa Cruz

2019 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

2019 Friends of Lunar Volatiles

Field Experience

Fieldwork at Potrillo Volcanic Field, New Mexico

Fieldwork at Kilauea Volcano, Hawai'i

Deployment to McMurdo, Antarctica - 2 months total

Deployment to Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert in northern Chile - 2 months

Professional Training

2021 Space Flight Resource Management Training for Science Operations - LPI

2021 Bystander Intervention

Selected Publications


2023. "The Distribution of Molecular Water in the Lunar South Polar Region Based upon 6 μm Spectroscopic Imaging." The Planetary Science Journal 4 (3): 45 [10.3847/psj/acbdf2] [Journal Article/Letter]

2023. "SOFIA+FORCAST Lunar Legacy Project Processing Procedure." Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 135 (1044): 024501 [10.1088/1538-3873/acb1d6] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "Simulated Lunar Surface Hydration Measurements using Multispectral Lidar at 3 µm." Earth and Space Science 9 (8): e2022EA002277 [10.1029/2022ea002277] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "The CORGIE Instrument Suite: Understanding Hydrogeologic Cycles on Planetary Bodies Through In Situ Characterization of Surface-Atmosphere Interactions." Optimizing Planetary In Situ Surface-Atmosphere Interaction Investigations Workshop, Boise, Idaho, LPI Contribution No. 2685 id. 7008 [Proceedings]

2022. "Regional map of molecular water at high southern latitudes on the Moon using 6 µm data from the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy." Geophysical Research Letters [10.1029/2022gl097786] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Volatile interactions with the lunar surface." Geochemistry 125858 [10.1016/j.chemer.2021.125858] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Hydroxylation of Apollo 17 Soil Sample 78421 by Solar Wind Protons ." Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets [] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "The spectral radiance of indirectly illuminated surfaces in regions of permanent shadow on the Moon." Acta Astronautica 180 25-34 [10.1016/j.actaastro.2020.11.032] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Molecular water detected on the sunlit Moon by SOFIA." Nature Astronomy [10.1038/s41550-020-01222-x] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Telescopic Observations of Lunar Hydration: Variations and Abundance." Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets 125 (9): [10.1029/2020je006484] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Evaluating the spectroradiometric performance of an uncooled midwave infrared hyperspectral interferometer using a microbolometer array detector." Optical Engineering 59 (07): 1 [10.1117/1.oe.59.7.074103] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Using Boulder Tracks as a Tool to Understand the Bearing Capacity of Permanently Shadowed Regions of the Moon." Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets 2019JE006157 [10.1029/2019je006157] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "Analysis of Lunar Boulder Tracks: Implications for Trafficability of Pyroclastic Deposits." Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets 2018JE005876 [10.1029/2018je005876] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Incorporation of Portable Infrared Spectral Imaging Into Planetary Geological Field Work: Analog Studies at Kīlauea Volcano, Hawaii, and Potrillo Volcanic Field, New Mexico." Earth and Space Science 5 21 [10.1029/2018ea000375] [Journal Article/Letter]


2021. "The Importance of Field Studies for Closing Key Knowledge Gaps in Planetary Science." Vol. 53, Issue 4 (Planetary/Astrobiology Decadal Survey Whitepapers) 53 (4): [10.3847/25c2cfeb.0a087f9f] [Other]

Talks, Presentations and Posters


Molecular Water on the Sunlit Lunar Surface: Detection of the 6 µm H-O-H Fundamental with the SOFIA Airborne Observatory


Diurnal Variations Of Lunar Surface Water From Groundbased Telescopic Observations. 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Abstract No. 2076. 


Estimates Of Molecular Water Abundance Using The 6 Micron H-O-H Bend. 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Abstract No. 2199.


Mapping Lunar Water From A Groundbased Observatory, AGU Fall Meeting, Abstract No. P23d-3474.


Groundbased Lunar Surface Water: Latitude, Longitude Systematics And Detection And Abundances At Small Geologic Targets, New Views of the Moon 2, Abstract No. 6042.


Volcanic gas measurements using a compact mid-wave infrared hyperspectral imager. Proc. of SPIE, Vol. 10780, 107800K


Groundbased Observations Of The Lunar Surface At 3 Microns: Implications For The Presence Of Mobile Water For Polar Ice Supply, Lunar Polar Volatiles, Abstract. No. 5019.


Measurement requirements and instrument performance for remote measurements of lunar surface water abundance and variation using the 6 microns water absorption. 49th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Abstract No. 1808.


Lunar surface water: latitude, longitude systematics and detection and abundances at small geologic targets from groundbased telescopic observations. 49th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Abstract No. 1726.


MWIR hyperspectral imaging with the MIDAS instrument. Proc. of SPIE, Vol. 10177, 101770J


Spectral response of microbolometers for hyperspectral imaging. Proc. of SPIE, Vol. 10177, 101771W


Water Absorption at 6 μm: A New Tool for Remote Measurements of Lunar
Surface Water Abundance and Variation. 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Abstract No. 1314


The Miniaturized Infrared Detector of Atmospheric Species: a low-mass, low-power hyperspectral imager. Proc. of SPIE, Vol. 9819, 98190J.






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