Planetary Geology, Geophys & Geochem Lab

Caitlin Ahrens


Caitlin Ahrens's Contact Card & Information.
Org Code: 698
Mail Code 698
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Brief Bio

Caitlin Ahrens' research involves remote sensing of icy surfaces and volatile interactions, including permanently shadowed craters at the lunar poles, focusing on the composition and thermodynamics of ices. Dr. Ahrens' specific expertise focuses on modeling of thermal phases of ices, and applications to geomorphological and geophysical data on icy surfaces, including cryovolcanism. Dr. Ahrens also works on a number of planetary volcanism projects, including lava flow morphology, caldera formation, and rheology, on Mars, Ceres, Titan, and Pluto. Dr. Ahrens is currently applying LRO Diviner data with a myriad of other remote sensing data to investigate the volatiles at the lunar surface and lunar volcanism. She is a member of the Diviner Science Team.

Dr. Ahrens is currently a University of Maryland - College Park Postdoctoral Research Scientist (CRESST-II) at the Goddard Space Flight Center, advised by Dr. Noah Petro. She is also a technical research assistant for the Extravehicular and Human activity Program for Artemis.

In 2018, Dr. Ahrens received the Ten Outstanding Young Americans award (presented by the Jaycees) for her efforts in science communication and outreach.

Current Projects

Volatile Ice Modeling at the Lunar Permanently Shadowed Regions


Using LRO Diviner data in combination with other remote sensing datasets to determine the stability and ice phases of the ices at the lunar poles. Duties also include classifying PSR (permanently shadowed regions) at the lunar poles for identification of possible volatile species and traverse planning for robotic and crewed missions.

GCA: Astrobiology from the Moon - Artemis Implications


•Identify and characterize locations near the South Pole afford an opportunity to collect such samples.

•Identify methods to evaluate the degree of contamination occurring due to human exploration.

•Determine the possible distribution of volatiles reservoirs near the pole previously undetected through remote sensing analyses but preserved in the unique thermal environments at the lunar poles.  


NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) Research Associate

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - Greenbelt, MD

2020 - 2023

Teaching Assistant/Research Associate

Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Science, University of Arkansas - Fayetteville, AR

2015 - 2020

Research Experience Undergraduate (REU), Astrogeology Branch

US Geological Survey - Flagstaff, AZ

2012 - 2012

Telescope Operator

West Virginia University Physics & Astronomy Department - Morgantown, WV

2011 - 2015

NASA Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility Program (EHP) Induced Environments Systems Technical Assistant

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - Greenbelt, MD

March 2023 - Present

Postdoctoral Research Scientist

CRESST-II; University of Maryland - College Park - NASA GSFC

2023 - Present


2020 - PhD - Space and Planetary Science Center - University of Arkansas

[Dissertation: Understanding Ice Mixtures under Pluto Simulated Conditions and their Implications for Geophysical Processes]

2015 - BS - Physics Department, Astrophysics Emphasis, West Virginia University

2015 - BS - Geology Department, West Virginia University

Professional Societies

American Geophysical Union

Natural Hazards Program Committee member

2018 - Present

Seismological Society of America

2014 - Present

Geophysical Society of America

2010 - Present

Central Appalachian Astronomy Club

2005 - Present

Outer Planets Assessment Group (OPAG)

2016 - Present

Lunar Exploration and Analysis Group (LEAG)

2020 - Present

Laboratory Astrophysics Division

Affiliate Member

2022 - Present

Professional Service

American Geophysical Union (AGU) Natural Hazards 2023 Program Committee Member

IAU National Astronomy Education Coordinator Team (U.S. Team Member) (2022-present)

ISSI International Teams: Laboratory Investigations of Planetary Ices Team Member (PI: Ganna Portyankina) (2021-present)

TREX SSERVI member; Team 4 co-lead Camera Ops (2021-present)

LRO Planetary Science Working Group Member (2020-present)

Goddard Center for Astrobiology Member; Lunar Science Lead (2020-present)

LRO Diviner Science Team Member (2020-present)

Encyclopedia of Lunar Science (Springer) Board Member and Section Editor (2021-2023)

NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador (2016-present)

NASA ROSES proposal reviews for multiple panels (2018-present): roles as primary reviewer and executive secretary

Reviewer for PSJ, ACS Earth Space Chemistry, Nature, Nature Communications

Session chair and science convener for numerous workshops and conferences


2019: Rising Star Award - West Virginia University Alumni

2019: FIRST LEGO League Coach/Mentor Service Award

2018: Ten Outstanding Young Americans (Jaycees)

2018: Outstanding Young West Virginians (Jaycees)

2010: Astronomical League Horkheimer/D'Auria Youth Service Award


Constraints on geologically young lunar wrinkle ridges and lobate scarps 

Internal Scientist Funding Model (ISFM): Planetary Geodesy - NASA GSFC - Awarded: 0000-00-00

Dates:  - 

Other Professional Information

West Virginia University Physics & Astronomy Department Visiting Committee Member (2021-present)

NASA Planetary Science Summer School (PSSS) (2021), Role: PI



2024. "Chapter 11 - Geocryology of Pluto and the icy moons of Uranus and Neptune." Ices in the Solar-System A Volatile-Driven Journey from the Inner Solar System to its Far Reaches 357-376 [] [Article in Book]

2024. "Chapter 7 - Ceres—A volatile-rich dwarf planet in the asteroid belt." Ices in the Solar-System A Volatile-Driven Journey from the Inner Solar System to its Far Reaches 221-259 [] [Article in Book]

2023. "Chapter 10. Titan, Enceladus, and Other Icy Moons of Saturn." Ices in the Solar System [Book]

2023. "Sverdrup-Henson crater: A candidate location for the first lunar South Pole settlement." iScience 26 (10): 107853 [10.1016/j.isci.2023.107853] [Journal Article/Letter]

2023. "Space Weathering at the Moon: Priorities for Interdisciplinary Heliophysics and Planetary Science Research." Bulletin of the AAS [10.3847/25c2cfeb.4de28fb2] [Report]

2023. "Pluto’s Surface Mapping Using Unsupervised Learning from Near-infrared Observations of LEISA/Ralph." The Planetary Science Journal 4 (1): 15 [10.3847/psj/acb0cc] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "An Effusive Lunar Dome Near Fracastorius Crater: Spectral and Morphometric Properties." Remote Sensing 14 (23): 6135 [10.3390/rs14236135] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "Geomorphological and morphometric characteristics of the volcanic edifices along a volcanic alignment of Tharsis on Mars." Geomorphology 414 108385 [10.1016/j.geomorph.2022.108385] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "The Case for a New Frontiers–Class Uranus Orbiter: System Science at an Underexplored and Unique World with a Mid-scale Mission." The Planetary Science Journal 3 (3): 58 [10.3847/psj/ac5113] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "A Geoscientific Review on CO and CO2 Ices in the Outer Solar System." Geosciences 12 (2): 51 [10.3390/geosciences12020051] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Temperatures of the Lacus Mortis region of the Moon." Earth and Space Science [10.1029/2021ea001966] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Volcanic eruptions on Mars and lava flow morphology and thermodynamics ." Mars: A Volcanic World [Article in Book]

2021. "Petrologic evolution of Martian volcanism and clues from meteorites." Mars: A Volcanic World [Article in Book]

2021. "The Origin and Evolution of Volcanism at Martian Highland Paterae: A Review of the Current State of Knowledge." Mars: A Volcanic World 231-266 [10.1007/978-3-030-84103-4_9] [Article in Book]

2021. "Rheological and Thermophysical Properties and Some Processes Involving Common Volatile Materials Found on Pluto’s Surface." The Pluto System After New Horizons (S. A. Stern, J. M. Moore, W. M. Grundy, L. A. Young, and R. P. Binzel, eds.) pp. 195–255 [10.2458/azu_uapress_9780816540945-ch010] [Article in Book]

2021. "Small Penetrator Instrument Concept for the Advancement of Lunar Surface Science." The Planetary Science Journal 2 (1): 38 [10.3847/psj/abda4f] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Modeling cryogenic mud volcanism on Pluto." Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 406 107070 [10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2020.107070] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Investigation of the morphology and interpretation of Hekla Cavus, Pluto." Icarus 114108 [10.1016/j.icarus.2020.114108] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Labyrinth terrain on Titan." Icarus 344 113764 [10.1016/j.icarus.2020.113764] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "Compressional Ridges on Baret Montes, Pluto as Observed by New Horizons." Geophysical Research Letters 46 (24): 14328-14335 [10.1029/2019gl085648] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "A Global Inventory of Ice‐Related Morphological Features on Dwarf Planet Ceres: Implications for the Evolution and Current State of the Cryosphere." Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets 2018JE005699 [10.1029/2018je005699] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Recent Advancements and Motivations of Simulated Pluto Experiments." Space Science Reviews 214 (8): 130 [10.1007/s11214-018-0558-6] [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "Comparison of the mineral composition of the sediment found in two Mars dunefields: Ogygis Undae and Gale crater – three distinct endmembers identified." Earth and Planetary Science Letters 458 152-160 [10.1016/j.epsl.2016.10.022] [Journal Article/Letter]


2024. "MULTIPLE DATASETS TO DETERMINE “YOUTH MARKERS” OF ACTIVITY AT WRINKLE RIDGES IN MARE FRIGORIS." 55th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, held 11-15 March, 2023 at The Woodlands, Texas and virtually. LPI Contribution (1643): [Proceedings]

2023. "A Conductivity and Dosimetry Probe for Lunar Surface and VolatileExploration." AGU Fall Meeting 2023, held in San Francisco, CA, December 2023 (1402005): [Proceedings]

2023. "Shedding Light on the Darkness: Diversity of Permanently Shadowed Regions at the Lunar Poles." Annual Meeting of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group, held 20-22 September, 2023 in Laurel, Maryland/Virtual. LPI Contribution 2887 (2913): [Proceedings]

2023. "Lunar Science Opportunities and Challenges at the Faustini Rim A Candidate Landing Site." Artemis III Candidate Landing Regions Workshop (LPI 2989): [Proceedings]

2023. "Spectral and Morphometric Properties of the Fracastorius Crater Lunar Dome." 54th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, held 13-17 March, 2023 at The Woodlands, Texas and virtually. LPI Contribution. 2806 (1157): [Proceedings]

2023. "Identifying Shoreline Morphologies and Mapping of Sputnik Planitia." 1st Workshop on Ices in the Solar System: A Volatile Excursion from Mercury and the Moon to the Kuiper Belt and Beyond (Montreal, Canada). (LPI 2809): [Proceedings]

2022. "Investigation of Polygonal Impact Craters near the Lunar Poles." American Geophysical Union 2022 Fall Meeting [Proceedings]

2022. "Mapping Thermal Flux Boundaries Surrounding Permanently Shadowed Regions (PSRs) at the Lunar South Pole." Lunar Polar Volatiles Conference, LPI (LPI No. 2703): id.5008 [Proceedings]

2022. "Bringing Planetary Science Mission Outreach to the Deaf and Blind Communities." Advancing IDEA in Planetary Science Workshop, LPI No. 2679, id.2006 [Other]

2022. "Estimating the Rate of Growth or Shrinkage of the Amundsen Crater PSR Area." 53rd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference id. 2339 [Proceedings]

2021. "The Rockiness of Lunar Tectonic Features ." AAS Division of Planetary Science meeting #53 53 (7): id. 306.01 [Proceedings]

2021. "Geologic Science Research Priorities for the Moons of Uranus." Vol. 53, Issue 4 (Planetary/Astrobiology Decadal Survey Whitepapers) 53 (4): [10.3847/25c2cfeb.4ed69daf] [Report]

2021. "Advancing Experimental Research and Instrumentation in the Laboratory in Understanding the Moon." Vol. 53, Issue 4 (Planetary/Astrobiology Decadal Survey Whitepapers) 53 (4): [10.3847/25c2cfeb.cd8ea952] [Report]

2021. "The Need for a Facility to Understand Volatile Ice Rheology." Vol. 53, Issue 4 (Planetary/Astrobiology Decadal Survey Whitepapers) 53 (4): [10.3847/25c2cfeb.9142aecb] [Report]

2021. "Spectral Science Priorities for an Infrared Spectrometer with Interstellar Probe." Vol. 53, Issue 4 (Planetary/Astrobiology Decadal Survey Whitepapers) 53 (4): [10.3847/25c2cfeb.befe29ef] [Report]

2021. "The Spatial Relationship of Graben and Pit Craters at Rimae Daniell and the Implications of Scarp Formation." 52nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, held virtually, 15-19 March, 2021. LPI Contribution No. 2548, id.1481 [Proceedings]

2021. "Preliminary Observations on the Relationship Between Fe-Signatures and PSR Locations at the Lunar South Pole." 52nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, held virtually, 15-19 March, 2021. LPI Contribution No. 2548, id.1478 [Proceedings]

2020. "Preliminary Surface Thermal Flux Calculations Using LRO Diviner in Lunar Permanently Shadowed Craters." Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 51 1949 [Proceedings]

2019. "Thinking outside the 'ice' box; grain size changes of solid nitrogen and its effects on the surface of Pluto." EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019 EPSC-DPS2019-201 [Proceedings]

2019. "Characterizing Faults Across the Surface of Pluto." Pluto System After New Horizons 7036 [Proceedings]

2019. "Overview of Thermal and Rheological Properties of Ices on Pluto and Other Bodies of the Outer Solar System." Pluto System After New Horizons 7033 [Proceedings]

2019. "Collisional Terminology For Cold Classical KBOs." Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 50 1248 [Proceedings]

2019. "Comparative Morphologies Between Dune Slope Streaks and Recurring Slope Lineae on Mars." Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 50 1160 [Proceedings]

2018. "Spectral Characteristics of Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen, Methane Mixtures in Simulated Pluto Conditions." Experimental Analysis of the Outer Solar System Workshop 3006 [Proceedings]

2018. "Potential Mud Volcanism Type Processes on Pluto." Cryovolcanism in the Solar System Workshop 2003 [Proceedings]

2018. "Spectral Characteristics of Carbon Monoxide in Nitrogen and Methane Mixtures in Simulated Pluto Conditions." Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 49 [2833] [Proceedings]

2017. "Dune Slipface Feature Morphologies and Their Relationship to Mineralogy." Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 48 2049 [Proceedings]

2017. "Geomorphological Characteristics of a Low-Albedo Feature in Utopia Planitia, Mars." Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 48 2008 [Proceedings]

2017. "Investigating a Cryovolcanic Collapse Feature in Cthulhu Region, Pluto." Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 48 1351 [Proceedings]

2014. "An Assessment of the Reliability of Mineral Abundance Estimates Derived from TES Data over Dune Sites." Eighth International Conference on Mars 1012 [Proceedings]

2013. "Mineral Analysis of Martian Dunes: Sediment Composition of Martian Dune Fields Using the Thermal Emission Spectrometer." Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 44 2096 [Proceedings]

Talks, Presentations and Posters


STEAM Outreach in NASA: Example for Finnish Organizations in Various Sectors

November 27, 2023

Invitation from the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland to network and keynote presentation on improving STEM opportunities through different communities.

Bringing the Perseverance Mission to the Blind and Deaf Communities

May 2022

National Informal STEM Education (NISE) Network April Convention


April 31, 2022

2022 Murthy/Reihl Global Education Leadership Lecture, Community College of Baltimore County

Blind and Deaf Accessibility in Space Science Outreach Resources

1, 2021

Invited speaker for SMD's Science Activation 2021 Program and Diversability panelist

Ins and Outs of Cryovolcanism

July 28, 2021

Virtual seminar keynote to the D'Annunzio University of Chieti–Pescara Geology Department

Exploring the Flavors of Cryovolcanism

July 14, 2021

Seminar: Center for Earth and Planetary Studies, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Geology and Geophysics of Pluto

March 1, 2021

UC Santa Cruz Planetary Lunch Seminar Speaker (virtual)

Shake, Rattle & Roll: Seismology of the Solar System

February 15, 2021

Astronomical League Winter Star Party (virtual)

in A World...A Hollywood View of Planets

December 14, 2020

National Capital Area Skeptics (virtual speaker)

Pluto: From the Lab to the Maps

August 18, 2019

Howard Astronomical League, Maryland

InOMN 2018

November 20, 2018

Fayetteville Public Library

Space Volcanoes!

February 31, 2018

Fayetteville Public Library

Green Bank Star Quest (regular speaker)


Regular speaker and occasional keynote (2016-present)


A Conductivity and Dosimetry Probe for Lunar Surface and Volatile Exploration

13, 2023

Presentation at the American Geophysical Union 2023 Fall Meeting (San Francisco, CA).

Penetrator Science Objectives for the Moon and Artemis

October 2022

19th International Planetary Probes Workshop 2022 presentation

Lunar Science using Penetrators: Objectives and Concepts

August 2022

Poster presentation at the 2022 NASA Exploration Science Forum (virtual)

Shedding Light on the Darkness: Diversity of Permanently Shadowed Regions (PSRs) at the Lunar South Pole

August 2021

Presentation at the 2021 NASA Exploration Science Forum (virtual)

Ices in the Solar System (ESA/ESAC) Madrid, Spain

February 2017

Speaker and Session Chair

Selected Public Outreach

Sun, Moon, Starlore

December 2018 - December 2018

Museum of Native American History (MONAH), Bentonville, AR

Meteorites of Arkansas and the World

October 2019 - October 2019

University of Arkansas Museum Invited Speaker

Gardening in Space

February 2021 - February 2021

WV Master Gardeners Seminar Speaker

NASA Solar System Ambassador Events

2017 - Present

If you are interested in events I have been involved with through the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassadors Program

Exploration of Jupiter’s moons : an example of American-European collaboration

May 2022 - May 2022

"To promote our Café des Sciences for the Science and Technology at the Consulate of France in Los Angeles, Dr. Caitlin Ahrens, NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow, gave us insights into Jupiter in Native American Culture, and into how indigenous’ Astro-knowledge has enriched today’s Space sciences." (Video/podcast presentation)

NASA's Exploration of the Moon: Past, Present, and Future The Moon

August 2023 - August 2023

Panel moderator and speaker for AwesomeCon 2023 (Washington, D.C.) panel about lunar exploration.