Meet the Team: Michael Aye

Today we have the next installment of our Meet the Planet Four Team series, featuring Michael Aye from the Science Team.


Name:  K.-Michael Aye

What is your current position and where/institution?

Postdoctoral Researcher at UCLA in Los Angeles, CA, Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences 

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

I am from Germany, where I grew up approx 100 km northwest of Hamburg, near the North Sea.

What are your research interests/what do you work on?

  • Surface atmosphere interactions on Mars, creating visual phenomena that do not exist on Earth
  • Calibration of the Diviner radiometer instrument on-board the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)
  • Automated image feature extraction using machine learning procedures

In 3 lines explain your PhD thesis?

I developed a calibration system for the photo-multiplier based cameras of the ground-based high energy gamma-ray telescope system H.E.S.S. This system was based on using nano-second short UV-laser pulses fluorescing a scintillator material and transporting that broader-band light through 50 m of fiber cables and have all this remote controllable. I finished up with installing and operating a LIDAR and radiometer to monitor the atmosphere status as required to cross-calibrate the observed gamma-ray flashes from the particle showers in the atmosphere.

Why are you interested in Mars?

Mars and Venus are the closest siblings of Earth and to understand their differences makes us understand Earth better (but I don’t like the multitude of Venusian chemistry that much.. yet 😉 The lack of water on Mars really makes it a great lab for studying the interface between the surface and atmosphere because on Earth most of what we see is dominated by water-based erosion. On Mars, it’s the wind and amazing CO2 sublimation effects.

What is your favorite movie?

The Matrix

What is your favorite book?

I don’t have much time for reading anymore, but when I did, these books were big fun:

  • “Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman” (showing a bit too much hubris at times, but he was indeed a genius)
  • “Titan” from Steven Baxter (greatly informed S-F)
  • The robot novels of Isaac Asimov made me appreciate the complexity of connecting human language and interaction schemes to the operation of machines. It inevitably makes you think about the human consciousness definition as well. A must read for any S-F fan.

What is the song you currently can’t get out of your head?

“Get lucky” by Daft Punk

What three albums would you bring with you to a desert island?

  • “Love is the tender trap” by Stacey Kent. The most ingenious introduction to Jazz ever made. Soft, gentle, but with everything that ever was important for Jazz to make it less fringy but more popular. It was my intro to Jazz and I will never stop loving it. It has an absolute genius of a piano player as well.
  • “Gran Riserva” by dZihan & Kamien. Great electronic lounge for the long work nights. I basically wrote my PhD with it.
  • And now the surprise 🙂 “Once more with feeling”, soundtrack to the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire slayer. Also a remnant of my PhD times, it shows the early genius of Joss Whedon to its fullest.

Favorite cocktail or beverage?

I wouldn’t be able to pick really favorites, but among them are Margaritas on hot days, Caipirinhas and Mojitos. And since my 4 year stay in good ol’ England, I really am loving ales of all kind.

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