Sciences and Exploration Directorate

Michael F Corcoran


Michael F Corcoran's Contact Card & Information.
Phone: 301.286.5576
Org Code: 662
Mail Code 662
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Brief Bio

Mike Corcoran received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1988, where, as a graduate student in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, he learned the (often frustrating) art of visible-band photometry and polarimetry. Mike's thesis was an attempt to explore the importance of non-sphericity of winds from hot, massive stars by looking for a residual polarimetric signal in the photospheric radiation scattered by the wind material. As a result of this work, Mike became convinced of three things: that the assumption of spherical symmetry applied to winds from hot stars is, in general, unphysical; that disturbances in stellar winds can have observable effects throughout the electromagnetic spectrum; and that an unheated telescope dome gets pretty cold in winter.

Moving indoors, in 1988 Mike found a job at NASA/GSFC as a post-doc with Advanced Computer Concepts (ACC) studying stellar wind behavior via analysis of UV spectral lines. After finishing his tenure at ACC in 1989, Mike inverse-Compton scattered his way to an NRC post-doc at the X-ray group at GSFC.

In 1991 Mike went to work for Universities Space Research Association and joined the ROSAT Guest Observer Facility at GSFC as lead archive scientist. In 1993 Mike joined the HEASARC, and now serves as the manager of the HEASARC Calibration Database and HEASARC archive scientist for the GLAST mission, in addition to his continuing duties as ROSAT archive scientist. In 2008 Mike became USRA Associate Director for the Center for Research and Exploration in Space Science and Technology (CRESST). In April 2017 Mike joined The Catholic University of America as an Associate Research Professor as part of CRESST.

Research Interests

X-ray Emission from Massive Stars

Astrophysics: Stars

Dr. Corcoran studies the ways stars in our Galaxy (and slightly beyond) produce X-ray emission. He's especially interested in studying mass loss in massive binary systems via their strong winds by studying the X-ray emission produced where the winds collide.

Current Projects

X-ray Emission from Eta Carinae


Eta Carinae is perhaps the most luminous and massive binary system in our Galaxy. Variable X-ray emission from this system has been instrumental in establishing the star as a Colliding-Wind Binary system. Dr. Corcoran and his collaborators use X-ray observations with RXTE, Swift, Chandra, XMM, NuSTAR and NICER to determine how the system loses mass through strong stellar winds (the strongest "steady" stellar wind we know of in the Milky Way) and how this mass loss changes with time.

Variable X-ray Emission from the Colliding Wind Binary Laboratory, WR 140 = HD 193793


WR 140 is the prototype colliding wind binary, consisting of an evolved massive star and a less evolved, more massive star in an 8-year, very eccentric orbit. The star has been well studied from ground and the binary orbit imaged. It is a bright X-ray emitter where X-ray emission is produced by the collision fo the two stars in the system. Dr. Corcoran and his colleagues have used a variety of X-ray observatories to study the high-energy emission around the orbit and have helped develop models of the 3-D structure of the wind-wind interactions, and the mysterious connection between the very hot gas producing X-ray emission and the very cold gas that produces dust.


Postdoctoral Researcher

Advanced Computer Concepts, Inc - NASA/GSFC

1988 - 1989

Analysis of IUE observations of the winds of massive stars in binary systems (supervisor: Dr. Sally Heap)

National Research Council Resident Research Associate

National Reseach Council - NASA/GSFC

1989 - 1991

Research involving the X-ray emission associated with shocked stellar winds from massive stars (supervisor: Dr. Jean Swank)

ROSAT Guest Observer Facility Support Scientist


1991 - 1993

Assisted community access to and analysis of data from ROSAT.

HEASARC Archive Scientist


1993 - Present

Serves as ROSAT and Fermi archive scientists, manager of the Calibration Database, and editor of the High Energy Astrophysics Picture of the Week.

USRA Director, Center for Research and Exploration in Space Science and Technology


2009 - 2016

Directed the USRA scientists employed through CRESST, and managed the CRESST Visitor Program.

Acting Director, Space Technology Institute


2014 - 2015

Managed research activities of STI at MSFC

Director, NASA Postdoctoral Program


2015 - 2016

Transitioned and directed the NASA Postdoctoral Program

Associate Research Professor

The Catholic University of America - 620 Michigan Ave., N.E. Washington, DC 20064

April 2016 - Present

I work for Catholic University as part of the Center for Research and Exploration in Space Sciences and Technology (2) at the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt MD

Teaching Experience

Adjunct Faculty, The George Washington University, 1997 – 2014

Adjunct Faculty, The University of Maryland, 2017 – 2018

Graduate Student Supervision

1992 -Jose Suarez, Florida Institute of Technology

1993 - Jennifer Catelli, U. Maryland

1994 - Sven Geier, U. Maryland

1996 - 1999 Kazunori Ishibashi, U. Minnesota (M. Sc., Ph. D.)

1999 - Amy Fredericks, U. Maryland

2000 - Laura Brenneman, USRA

2003 - Gary Price, Richard Stockton College

2017 - David Espinoza, The Catholic University of America

Postdoctoral Supervision

2001 - Dr. Aaron Flores

2002 - Dr. Kenji Hamaguchi

2020 - Dr. Christopher Russell


1988-- Ph.D. Astrophysics, University of Pennsylvania
1982-- BA. Physics, Cornell

Professional Societies

American Astronomical Union

1986 - Present

International Astronomical Union

1988 - Present

High Energy Astrophysics Division, American Astronomical Society

1990 - Present

Professional Service

Executive Secretary, The High Energy Astrophysics Division of the AAS, 2016 – 2025


2022 - NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal

2022 - HEAD Bruno Rossi Prize (as part of the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer Team)

2019 - NASA Special ACT - Team Award for execution of the NICER Observing Program 2018 - NASA Special ACT - Team Award for contributions to the NICER Team

2015 - NASA Group Achievement Award

2005 - CPSS Community/Educational Outreach Award

2001 - CPSS University Collaboration Award

1992 - NASA Group Achievement Award

1989 - National Research Council Resident Research Associate Award



2022. "Nested dust shells around the Wolf–Rayet binary WR 140 observed with JWST." Nature Astronomy 6 (11): 1308-1316 [10.1038/s41550-022-01812-x] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "The Expansion of the X-Ray Nebula Around η Car." The Astrophysical Journal 937 (2): 122 [10.3847/1538-4357/ac8f27] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "NICER X-Ray Observations of Eta Carinae during Its Most Recent Periastron Passage." The Astrophysical Journal 933 (2): 136 [10.3847/1538-4357/ac69ce] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Competitive X-Ray and Optical Cooling in the Collisionless Shocks of WR 140." The Astrophysical Journal 923 (2): 191 [10.3847/1538-4357/ac2430] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "Distinguishing circumstellar from stellar photometric variability in Eta Carinae." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 484 (1): 1325-1346 [10.1093/mnras/stz067] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Non-thermal X-rays from colliding wind shock acceleration in the massive binary Eta Carinae." Nature Astronomy 2 (9): 731-736 [10.1038/s41550-018-0505-1] [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "The 2014 X-Ray Minimum of η Carinae as Seen by Swift." The Astrophysical Journal 838 (1): 45 [10.3847/1538-4357/aa6347] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "VLTI-AMBER velocity-resolved aperture-synthesis imaging of η Carinae with a spectral resolution of 12 000." Astronomy & Astrophysics 594 A106 [10.1051/0004-6361/201628832] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "To v_∞ and beyond! The He I absorption variability across the 2014.6 periastron passage of η Carinae." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 461 (3): 2540-2558 [10.1093/mnras/stw1415] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "Modelling the Central Constant Emission X-ray component of η Carinae." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 458 (3): 2275-2287 [10.1093/mnras/stw339] [Journal Article/Letter]

2012. "He II λ4686 in η Carinae: Collapse of the Wind-Wind Collision Region during Periastron Passage." The Astrophysical Journal [10.1088/0004-637X/746/1/73] [Journal Article/Letter]

2011. "η Carinae long-term variability." Active OB stars: structure, evolution, mass loss, and critical limits, Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union, IAU Symposium [10.1017/S1743921311011513] [Journal Article/Letter]

2010. "Recent X-ray Variability of η Carinae: The Quick Road to Recovery." The Astrophysical Journal 725 1528 [Full Text] [10.1088/0004-637X/725/2/1528] [Journal Article/Letter]

2009. "Suzaku and XMM-Newton Observations of Diffuse X-Ray Emission from the Eastern Tip Region of the Carina Nebula." Publicatio/s of the Astronomical Society of Japan, Vol61, NoSP1, ppS123--S136 61 123 [Full Text] [Journal Article/Letter]

2009. "A Smoking Gun in the Carina Nebula." The Astrophysical Journal Letters 695 L4 [Full Text] [10.1088/0004-637X/695/1/L4] [Journal Article/Letter]

2009. "Detection of Gamma-Ray Emission from the Eta-Carinae Region." The Astrophysical Journal Letters 698 L142 [Full Text] [10.1088/0004-637X/698/2/L142] [Journal Article/Letter]

2009. "Understanding the X-ray Flaring from η Carinae." The Astrophysical Journal 707 693 [Full Text] [10.1088/0004-637X/707/1/693] [Journal Article/Letter]

2009. "3D modelling of the colliding winds in η Carinae - evidence for radiative inhibition." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 394 1758 [Full Text] [10.1111/j.1365-2966.2009.14475.x] [Journal Article/Letter]

2009. "The extended interacting wind structure of Eta Carinae." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 396 1308 [Full Text] [10.1111/j.1365-2966.2009.14854.x] [Journal Article/Letter]

2008. "Resolving a Class I Protostar Binary System with Chandra." The Astrophysical Journal 687 425 [Full Text] [10.1086/591544] [Journal Article/Letter]

2008. "Chandra X‐Ray Grating Spectrometry of η Carinae near X‐Ray Minimum. I. Variability of the Sulfur and Silicon Emission Lines." The Astrophysical Journal 680 (1): 705-727 [Full Text] [10.1086/587472] [Journal Article/Letter]

2008. "A multispectral view of the periodic events in η Carinae." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 386 (4): 2330-2344 [Full Text] [10.1111/j.1365-2966.2008.13214.x] [Journal Article/Letter]

2008. "Modelling the RXTE light curve of η Carinae from a 3D SPH simulation of its binary wind collision." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters 388 L39 [Full Text] [10.1111/j.1745-3933.2008.00496.x] [Journal Article/Letter]

2008. "New insights into the nature of the SMC WR/LBV binary HD 5980." Revista Mexicana de Astronomía y Astrofísica Vol 44, pp 3-27 (2008) (http://wwwastroscuunammx/~rmaa/) 44 3 [Full Text] [Journal Article/Letter]

2008. "The periodicity of the η Carinae events." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 384 (4): 1649-1656 [Full Text] [10.1111/j.1365-2966.2007.12815.x] [Journal Article/Letter]

2007. "η Carinae across the 2003.5 Minimum: Spectroscopic Evidence for Massive Binary Interactions." The Astrophysical Journal 660 (1): 669-686 [Full Text] [10.1086/513006] [Journal Article/Letter]

2007. "First Detection of Phase-dependent Colliding Wind X-Ray Emission outside the Milky Way." The Astrophysical Journal 658 L25 [Full Text] [10.1086/513510] [Journal Article/Letter]

2007. "X-Ray Spectral Variation of η Carinae through the 2003 X-Ray Minimum." The Astrophysical Journal 663 522 [Full Text] [10.1086/518101] [Journal Article/Letter]

2006. "Evidence for colliding winds in WR 25 from XMM-Newton observations of X-ray variability." Astronomy and Astrophysics 445 1093 [Full Text] [10.1051/0004-6361:20053496] [Journal Article/Letter]

2006. "The UV Scattering Halo of the Central Source Associated with η Carinae." The Astrophysical Journal 642 1098 [Full Text] [10.1086/501225] [Journal Article/Letter]

2005. "X-Ray Monitoring of η Carinae: Variations on a Theme." The Astronomical Journal 129 2018 [Full Text] [10.1086/428756] [Journal Article/Letter]

2005. "Bulk Velocities, Chemical Composition, and Ionization Structure of the X-Ray Shocks in WR 140 near Periastron as Revealed by the Chandra Gratings." The Astrophysical Journal 629 482 [Full Text] [10.1086/431193] [Journal Article/Letter]

2005. "A Change in the Physical State of ? Carinae?." The Astronomical Journal 129 900 [Full Text] [10.1086/427132] [Journal Article/Letter]

2005. "Discovery of CH and OH in the -513 km s-1 Ejecta of η Carinae." The Astrophysical Journal 629 1034 [Full Text] [10.1086/431917] [Journal Article/Letter]

2005. "Discovery of Extremely Embedded X-Ray Sources in the R Coronae Australis Star-forming Core." The Astrophysical Journal 623 291 [Full Text] [10.1086/428434] [Journal Article/Letter]

2004. "A spectral and spatial analysis of η Carinae's diffuse X-ray emission using CHANDRA." Astronomy and Astrophysics, v415, p595-607 (2004) 415 595 [Full Text] [10.1051/0004-6361:20034306] [Journal Article/Letter]

2004. "A Period and a Prediction for the Of?p Spectrum Alternator HD 191612." The Astrophysical Journal 617 L61 [Full Text] [10.1086/427184] [Journal Article/Letter]

2004. "An X-Ray Investigation of the NGC 346 Field in the Small Magellanic Cloud III XMM-Newton Data." The Astrophysical Journal 608 208 [Full Text] [10.1086/386323] [Journal Article/Letter]

2004. "Automated Classification of ROSAT Sources Using Heterogeneous Multiwavelength Source Catalogs." The Astrophysical Journal 616 1284 [Full Text] [10.1086/424955] [Journal Article/Letter]

2004. "Chandra Observation of the Trifid Nebula: X-Ray Emission from the O Star Complex and Actively Forming Pre-Main-Sequence Stars." The Astrophysical Journal 607 904 [Full Text] [10.1086/383081] [Journal Article/Letter]

2004. "Kinematics and Ultraviolet to Infrared Morphology of the Inner Homunculus of η Carinae." The Astrophysical Journal 605 405 [Full Text] [10.1086/382185] [Journal Article/Letter]

2004. "Waiting in the Wings: Reflected X-Ray Emission from the Homunculus Nebula." The Astrophysical Journal 613 381 [Full Text] [10.1086/423024] [Journal Article/Letter]

2003. "Chandra Observations of a Young Embedded Magnetic B Star in the p Ophiuchus Cloud." Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan, Vol55, No5, pp 981-987 55 981 [Full Text] [Journal Article/Letter]

2003. "An X-Ray Investigation of the NGC 346 Field in the Small Magellanic Cloud II The Field Population." The Astrophysical Journal 586 983 [Full Text] [10.1086/367831] [Journal Article/Letter]

2003. "Chandra/Very Large Array Follow-Up of TeV J2032+4131, the Only Unidentified TeV Gamma-Ray Source." The Astrophysical Journal 597 494 [Full Text] [10.1086/378121] [Journal Article/Letter]

2003. "Chandra Grating Spectroscopy of the X-Ray Binary 4U 1700-37 in a Flaring State." The Astrophysical Journal 592 516 [Full Text] [10.1086/375636] [Journal Article/Letter]

2002. "Recent X-ray Variability of Eta Car Approaching The X-ray Eclipse." Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society 34 1184- [Journal Article/Letter]

2002. "High-resolution X-ray imaging of the colliding wind shock in WR 147." Astronomy and Astrophysics, v388, p335-345 (2002) 388 335 [Full Text] [10.1051/0004-6361:20020465] [Journal Article/Letter]

2002. "The massive double-lined O-type binary HD 165052." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 333 202 [Full Text] [10.1046/j.1365-8711.2002.05404.x] [Journal Article/Letter]

2002. "Galactic Starburst NGC 3603 from X-Rays to Radio." The Astrophysical Journal 573 191 [Full Text] [10.1086/340491] [Journal Article/Letter]

2002. "A multi-wavelength investigation of the non-thermal radio emitting O-star 9 Sgr." Astronomy and Astrophysics, v394, p993-1008 (2002) 394 993 [Full Text] [10.1051/0004-6361:20020926] [Journal Article/Letter]

2002. "An XMM-Newton observation of the Lagoon Nebula and the very young open cluster NGC 6530." Astronomy and Astrophysics, v395, p499-513 (2002) 395 499 [Full Text] [10.1051/0004-6361:20021230] [Journal Article/Letter]

2002. "Australia Telescope Compact Array Radio Imaging of the Proplyd-like Objects in the Giant H II Region NGC 3603." The Astrophysical Journal 571 366 [Full Text] [10.1086/339843] [Journal Article/Letter]

2002. "BeppoSAX broad X-ray range observations of eta Carinae during high and low spectroscopic states." Astronomy and Astrophysics, v385, p874-883 (2002) 385 874 [Full Text] [10.1051/0004-6361:20020048] [Journal Article/Letter]

2002. "In hot pursuit of the hidden companion of eta Carinae: An X-ray determination of the wind parameters." Astronomy and Astrophysics, v383, p636-647 (2002) 383 636 [Full Text] [10.1051/0004-6361:20020025] [Journal Article/Letter]

2002. "Optical spectroscopy of X-Mega targets - IV CPD - 59°2636: a new O-type multiple system in the Carina Nebula." Monthly Notice of the Royal Astronomical Society 336 1099 [Full Text] [10.1046/j.1365-8711.2002.05755.x] [Journal Article/Letter]

2002. "An X-Ray Investigation of the NGC 346 Field in the Small Magellanic Cloud I The Luminous Blue Variable HD 5980 and the NGC 346 Cluster." The Astrophysical Journal 580 225 [Full Text] [10.1086/343079] [Journal Article/Letter]

2001. "X-Rays and Protostars in the Trifid Nebula." The Astrophysical Journal 562 446 [Full Text] [10.1086/323053] [Journal Article/Letter]

2001. "The X-Ray Light Curve of η Carinae: Refinement of the Orbit and Evidence for Phase-dependent Mass Loss." The Astrophysical Journal 547 1034 [Full Text] [10.1086/318416] [Journal Article/Letter]

2001. "The Chandra HETGS X-Ray Grating Spectrum of η Carinae." The Astrophysical Journal 562 1031 [Full Text] [10.1086/323322] [Journal Article/Letter]

2001. "Early Chandra X-Ray Observations of η Carinae." The Astrophysical Journal 553 832 [Full Text] [10.1086/320961] [Journal Article/Letter]

2001. "Optical spectroscopy of X-Mega targets - I CPD -59° 2635: a new double-lined O-type binary in the Carina Nebula." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 326 78 [Full Text] [10.1046/j.1365-8711.2001.04497.x] [Journal Article/Letter]

2001. "Optical spectroscopy of X-Mega targets - II The massive double-lined O-type binary HD 93205." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 326 85 [Full Text] [10.1046/j.1365-8711.2001.04500.x] [Journal Article/Letter]

2000. "ASCA spectroscopy of the hard X-ray emission from the colliding wind interaction in γ2 Velorum." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 316 129 [Full Text] [10.1046/j.1365-8711.2000.03491.x] [Journal Article/Letter]

2000. "The X-Ray Spectral Evolution of eta Carinae as Seen by ASCA." The Astrophysical Journal 545 420 [Full Text] [10.1086/317806] [Journal Article/Letter]

2000. "Six Early Type Stars Observed by ASCA." Advances in Space Research 25 527 [Full Text] [10.1016/S0273-1177(99)00793-0] [Journal Article/Letter]

2000. "Coordinated monitoring of the eccentric O-star binary Iota Orionis: optical spectroscopy and photometry." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 317 333 [Full Text] [10.1046/j.1365-8711.2000.03542.x] [Journal Article/Letter]

2000. "Coordinated monitoring of the eccentric O-star binary Iota Orionis: the X-ray analysis." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 319 137 [Full Text] [10.1046/j.1365-8711.2000.03804.x] [Journal Article/Letter]