Planetary Scientist



Always On Brandon Johnson


I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University. My research is focused mainly on impact cratering, which is arguably the most pervasive geologic process in the solar system.



In my group we use numerical models called hydrocodes to study the formation of impact craters and impact processes. Currently we are simulating the formation of large basins throughout the solar system.

Other interest include the formation of distal impact ejecta; impact jetting; spallation; the impact origin of chondrules; solar system dynamics; impacts in extra-solar systems; the reduction of friction during long run-out landslides and earthquakes; the breakup of comets; crater erasure; understanding the lunar gravity field; and other geophysical problems that pique my curiosity.
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Publications by Brandon Johnson


B. C. Johnson, M. M. Sori, A. J. Evans. Ferrovolcanism on metal worlds and the origin of pallasites. Nature Astronomy (2019).

Wiggins, S. E., B. C. Johnson, T. J. Bowling, H. J. Melosh, E. A. Silber. Impact Fragmentation and the Development of the Deep Lunar Megaregolith. J. Geophys. Res. Planets 124, 941–957 (2019).

Johnson, B. C., J. C. Andrews-Hanna, G. S. Collins, A. M. Freed, H. J. Melosh, M. T. Zuber. Controls on the formation of lunar multiring basins. J. Geophys. Res. Planets 123, 3035–3050 (2018).

Johnson, B. C., C. S. Campbell. Drop height and volume control the mobility of long runout landslides on the Earth and Mars. Geophys. Res. Lett. 44, 12091–12097 (2017).

Johnson, B. C., K. J. Walsh, D. A. Minton, A. N. Krot, H. F. Levison. Timing of the formation and migration of giant planets as constrained by CB chondrites. Science Advances 2, e1601658 (2016).

Johnson, B. C., D. M. Blair, G. S. Collins, H. J. Melosh, A. M. Freed, G. J. Taylor, J. W. Head, M. A. Wieczorek, J. C. Andrews-Hanna, F. Nimmo, J. T. Keane, K. Miljković, J. M. Soderblom, M. T. Zuber. Formation of the Orientale Lunar Multiring Basin. Science 354, 441–444 (2016).

Johnson, B. C., T. J. Bowling, A. J. Trowbridge, A. M. Freed. Formation of the Sputnik Planum basin and the thickness of Pluto’s subsurface ocean. Geophys. Res. Lett. 43, 10068–10077 (2016).

Johnson, B. C., C. S. Campbell, H. J. Melosh. The reduction of friction in long runout landslides as an emergent phenomenon. J. Geophys. Res. Earth Surf. 121, 881–889 (2016).

Johnson, B. C., D. A. Minton, H. J. Melosh, M.T. Zuber. Impact jetting as the origin of chondrules. Nature 517, 339–341 (2015).

Freed, A. M., B. C. Johnson, D. M. Blair, H. J. Melosh, G. A. Neumann, R. J. Phillips, S. C. Solomon, M. A. Wieczorek, M. T. Zuber. The Formation of Lunar Mascon Basins from Impact to Contemporary Form J. Geophys. Res. Planets 119, JE004657 (2014).

Johnson, B. C., T. J. Bowling, H. J. Melosh. Jetting during vertical impacts of spherical projectiles. Icarus 238, 13–22 (2014).

Johnson, B. C., H. J. Melosh. Formation of melt droplets, melt fragments, and accretionary impact lapilli during a hypervelocity impact. Icarus 228, 347–363 (2014).

Melosh, H. J., A. M. Freed, B. C. Johnson, D. M. Blair, J. C. Andrews-Hanna, G. A. Neumann, R. J. Phillips, D. E. Smith, S. C. Solomon, M. A. Wieczorek, M. T. Zuber. The Origin of Lunar Mascon Basins. Science 340, 1552–1555 (2013).

Johnson, B. C., H. J. Melosh. Impact spherules as a record of an ancient heavy bombardment of Earth. Nature 485, 75–77 (2012).

Johnson, B. C., H. J. Melosh. Formation of spherules in impact produced vapor plumes. Icarus 217, 416–430 (2012).


Brand- On



I was lucky enough to see the launch of the NASA’s GRAIL mission and have presented at several team meetings. One of my driving goals is to be an investigator on a successful space mission.