Jason Hofgartner's Home Page

Jason is a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.  His research is focused on understanding the physics of presently-active geologic processes in the solar system.  As a graduate student at Cornell University, he led the Cassini RADAR team in the first discovery and later confirmation of transient features in the hydrocarbon seas of Saturn’s moon Titan.  These enigmatic features, popularly known as “Titan’s Magic Islands” were determined to be waves, floating or suspended solids, or bubbles.  As a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), he modeled volatile transport on Kuiper belt object (KBO) Eris and led the New Horizons team in a search for temporal changes on Pluto and its moon Charon.  Eris was predicted to be in an unfamiliar atmospheric regime and despite its small size and solar distance of almost 100 times that of the Earth, to have extensive ongoing resurfacing.  Temporal changes were not detected in New Horizons observations but Pluto was found to have terrains with extraordinarily different albedos, larger in absolute difference than any other solar system body, and several enigmatic features.  Jason’s other research results include remote sensing tests to distinguish between competing hypotheses for plumes on Neptune’s moon Triton, spatially-resolved measurement of the albedo of KBO Arrokoth, and resolution of a more than decade-old apparent discrepancy between Arecibo Observatory and Cassini radar observations of Titan.  Jason has experience on two NASA missions, Cassini and New Horizons, and made significant contributions to three mission proposal/concept teams, Oceanus (Titan), Trident (Triton), and Europa Lander.  Jason’s current research includes investigating the enigmatic features discovered on Pluto, modeling seasonal volatile transport on Eris and other KBOs, analyzing Cassini radar observations of Titan, and developing future planetary missions.

Jason’s CV is available here.

He can be reached at jason dot hofgartner at swri dot org.

A blog about the resolution of the apparent discrepancy between Arecibo Observatory and Cassini radar observations of Titan and hypothesis that paleolakes and paleoseas (areas that were formerly lakes and seas) are the source of the anomalous observations is available here. An example media article about this research is ScienceNews.

NASA releases about Titan’s Magic Islands can be found here and here. Example media articles about Titan’s Magic Islands include: BBC and CSMonitor.

Normal reflectance and incidence-angle-average hemispherical albedo maps of KBO (486958) Arrokoth are available on NASA’s Planetary Data System archive.

This website was last updated on March 7, 2023.