Jamey R. Szalay Ph.D.

Associate Research Scholar
Email Address: 
jszalay AT princeton.edu
Office Location: 
171 Broadmead, 103f
PDF icon CV

Ph.D., Physics, University of Colorado Boulder (2015)

M.S., Physics, University of Colorado Boulder (2013)

B.S., Physics, Mathematics, James Madison University (2010)


Jamey Szalay is a research scientist interested in space plasma and dust phenomena throughout the solar system. His thesis work focused on impact ejecta measurements from the Lunar Dust Experiment (LDEX) aboard NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission at the Moon. He also led the scientific analysis and operations for the Student Dust Counter aboard the New Horizons (NH) mission to Pluto from 2011 to 2015. He works on the Jovian Auroral Distributions Experiment (JADE) aboard NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter, analyzing in-situ plasma data taken in the Jovian polar regions and is particularly interested in the mechanisms responsible for sustaining the bright auroral footprints connected to Jupiter's Galilean moons. His current research also extends measurements of the impact ejecta cloud at the Moon to asteroids throughout the solar system to better understand how their surfaces evolve. He is a Guest Investigator on the Parker Solar Probe mission, studying the evolution of the inner zodiacal cloud via impacts to the spacecraft observed by multiple instruments. He is also interested in the role of interstellar pickup ions (PUI) in our heliosphere's interaction with the interstellar medium and works on data analysis for the Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) instrument aboard NH and the IBEX-Hi instrument aboard NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission, which both inform on the complex PUI dynamics in our heliosphere. He is also an instrument scientist for the Interstellar Dust Experiment onboard NASA's IMAP mission run out of Princeton.

Research Interests

  • Interplanetary and Interstellar Dust
  • Impact processes and space weathering on airless bodies
  • Jovian auroral phenomena
  • Satellite-magnetosphere interactions
  • Interaction of the Heliosphere with the interstellar medium

Selected Publications

See full publication list at the publications page or at Google Scholar.

PDF iconProton Outflow Associated with Jupiter's Auroral Processes (2021), Szalay et al., GRL

Potential structures accelerate ionospheric protons away from Jupiter.Field-aligned proton beams are a systematic and identifiable feature associated with Jupiter's auroral emissions, transporting 3 ± 2 kg s−1 away from Jupiter's ionosphere. This mass loss occurs at all longitudes sampled by Juno around the southern auroral oval, while the northern hemisphere exhibits upward proton beams predominantly on one portion in System III, near the auroral kink region. These beams are associated with upward inverted-V structures indicative of quasi-static magnetic field- aligned parallel potentials. A lack of bidirectionality indicates these proton populations are pitch-angle and/or energy scattered and incorporated into the magnetospheric charged particle environment. This mechanism is a significant, and potentially dominant, source of protons in Jupiter's middle and outer magnetosphere. If Jupiter's ionosphere is the primary source for protons in the inner magnetosphere, they are likely sourced equatorward of the main emissions and at energies <100 eV.


PDF iconA New Framework to Explain Changes in Io's Footprint Tail Electron Fluxes (2020), Szalay et al., GRL

Precipitating Electron Energy FluxWe analyze precipitating electron fluxes connected to 18 crossings of Io's footprint tail aurora, over altitudes of 0.15 to 1.1 Jovian radii (RJ). The strength of precipitating electron fluxes is dominantly organized by “Io‐Alfvén tail distance,” the angle along Io's orbit between Io and an Alfvén wave trajectory connected to the tail aurora. These fluxes best fit an exponential as a function of down‐tail extent with an e‐folding distance of 21°. The acceleration region altitude likely increases down‐tail, and the majority of parallel electron acceleration sustaining the tail aurora occurs above 1 RJ in altitude. We do not find a correlation between the tail fluxes and the power of the initial Alfvén wave launched from Io. Finally, Juno has likely transited Io's Main Alfvén Wing fluxtube, observing a characteristically distinct signature with precipitating electron fluxes ~600 mW/m2 and an acceleration region extending as low as 0.4 RJ in altitude.


PDF iconThe Near-Sun Dust Environment: Initial Observations from Parker Solar Probe (2020), Szalay et al., ApJS

Impact vector schematicThe Parker Solar Probe (PSP) spacecraft has flown into the densest, previously unexplored, innermost region of our solar system’s zodiacal cloud. While PSP does not have a dedicated dust detector, multiple instruments on the spacecraft are sensitive to the effects of meteoroid bombardment. Here, we discuss measurements taken during PSP’s second orbit and compare them to models of the zodiacal cloud’s dust distribution. Comparing the radial impact rate trends and the timing and location of a dust impact to an energetic particle detector, we find the impactor population to be consistent with dust grains on hyperbolic orbits escaping the solar system. Assuming PSP’s impact environment is dominated by hyperbolic impactors, the total quantity of dust ejected from our solar system is estimated to be 0.5−10 tons/s. We expect PSP will encounter an increasingly intense impactor environment as its perihelion distance and semimajor axis are decreased.


PDF iconThe Impact Ejecta Environment of Near Earth Asteroids (2016), Szalay & Horanyi , ApJL

Impact Ejecta Distribution for a Near Earth Asteroid

Dust density distribution in the ecliptic frame for grains with a > 0.3 μm above a body with R=10 km. The apex is in the +y direction.

Impact ejecta production is a ubiquitous process that occurs on all airless bodies throughout the solar system. Unlike the Moon, which retains a large fraction of its ejecta, asteroids primarily shed their ejecta into the interplanetary dust population. These grains carry valuable information about the chemical compositions of their parent bodies that can be measured via in situ dust detection. Here, we use recent Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer/Lunar Dust Experiment measurements of the lunar dust cloud to calculate the dust ejecta distribution for any airless body near 1 au. We expect this dust distribution to be highly asymmetric, due to non- isotropic impacting fluxes. We predict that flybys near these asteroids would collect many times more dust impacts by transiting the apex side of the body compared to its anti-apex side. While these results are valid for bodies at 1 au, they can be used to qualitatively infer the ejecta environment for all solar-orbiting airless bodies.



Annual variation and synodic modulation of the sporadic meteoroid flux to the Moon (2015), Szalay & Horanyi , GRL

Synodic variation of the lunar ejecta cloud

Lunar phase averaged cloud densities shown for 45 deg. increments. Each color ring in the densities represent 40 km altitude bins. A peak lunar dust cloud density is observed while the Moon is in its waning gibbous phase.

The Lunar Dust Experiment on board NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer discovered a permanently present, asymmetric dust cloud engulfing the Moon, sustained by meteoroid bombardment. It is most dense at 5–8 lunar local time, with a peak density canted sunward. Here we present analysis on the variation of the cloud density during January to April 2014. We find the lunar dust cloud in the Moon’s equatorial plane to be dominantly produced by impacts from three known sporadic meteoroid sources: apex, helion, and antihelion, listed in order of their contribution to ejecta production. The cloud density is also modulated by the Moon’s orbital motion about the Earth, peaking during its waning gibbous phase. These results are complementary to ground-based measurements and indicate the Moon can be used as a very sensitive large area dust detector to characterize the meteoroid environment at 1 AU.