Computational Advances in Solar System Studies

Submission deadline: 1 November 2016
Publication: July/August 2017

Guest editors: Dr. Lucy McFadden and Dr. Nargess Memarsadeghi, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

In recent decades, advances in computing power, algorithm development, and data management and analysis have enabled an exponential expansion of our knowledge of and ability to explore the solar system. At the dawn of the space age, no one anticipated the enormous impact that computers and computational science would have on space exploration. Many advances in computing and engineering have shaped our understanding of our solar system:

  • Robotic spacecraft have enabled in situ exploration of planet and asteroid surfaces and interiors. Monte Carlo simulations can calculate millions of possible trajectories for flyby, rendezvous, and orbiting missions, allowing us to plan missions in ways that optimize their scientific return.
  • Computer processing has allowed us to develop high-precision digital terrain models of the planets, their satellites, dwarf planets, particles, and fields based on data from space missions. These models will allow us to find our way around the solar system long into the future.
  • Global models of atmospheric circulation on Mars now calculate temporal and spatial resolutions needed to select ideal landing sites.
  • Visualization tools allow us to merge multiple datasets to see relationships between physical parameters and understand complex planetary processes.
  • High-speed, multicore computer processors allow for dynamical models that simulate the gravitational interactions between planetary masses throughout the solar system’s long lifetime.

The list goes on. In this special issue of CiSE, we invite you to write about the computational tools that have produced surprising results as we explore our solar system. We encourage submissions from computer science, computer engineering, and planetary sciences communities. Topics of interest include:

  • Mapping and modeling of planetary bodies.
  • Trajectory design and optimization for planetary missions.
  • Solar-system formation and dynamics modeling.
  • Software, tools, and algorithms for processing data from planetary missions and telescopic surveys.

Co-published by the IEEE Computer Society and the American Institute of Physics (AIP), Computing in Science & Engineering (CiSE) magazine features the latest computational science and engineering research in an accessible format, along with departments covering news and analysis, computational science and engineering in education, and emerging technologies.

Submission Guidelines

See for general author guidelines. Articles submitted to Computing in Science & Engineering should not exceed 7,200 words, including all main body, abstract, keyword, bibliography, biography, and table text. Each table and figure counts for 250 words. Manuscripts should be submitted electronically (, selecting this special-issue option.


Contact guest editors Lucy McFadden and Nargess Memarsadeghi at