Arthur NiellResearch Scientist My main research interest is in improving the accuracy and operability of our geodetic VLBI systems to better measure the rotation of the Earth and, combined with GPS and SLR, changes in its shape.
My background is in physics and astronomy. I went to Caltech for my undergraduate degree and to Cornell for my Ph.D. for which I did much of my research at the Arecibo Ionospheric Observatory in Puerto Rico. Since then I’ve had only three jobs: at Queen’s University in Canada where I was studying the radio emission from quasars; at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California where I made the transition from mostly radio astronomy to using the quasars to better understand our Earth; and then, for the last almost 36 years, here at Haystack Observatory, a research facility of MIT, where I’ve continued with the geodesy and worked my way back towards astronomy. Along the way I’ve spent a lot of time trying to better understand the effect of the atmosphere on our geodetic measurements.
Better understanding of the Earth’s rotation and changes in its shape are fundamental to how society functions, through mapping, navigation, and keeping very accurate time, and to how we can reduce our vulnerability to natural hazards.
The Haystack VLBI Geodetic Observing System (VGOS) signal chain has been in development since 2007 and in service since 2010. It was developed for NASA and has been installed in Texas and Hawaii.