Titan water
Fostering cooperative research in space sciences

Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science

The Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science (CCAPS) fosters cooperative research among astronomers, engineers, geologists and other researchers with specialties relevant to space sciences. Connected to and contained within the Department of Astronomy, CCAPS administers research grants and contracts across several Cornell Departments. CCAPS was founded in 1959 as the Center for Radiophysics and Space Research, by Cornell professor Thomas Gold (1920-2004), and renamed in 2015.

Interdisciplinary Research

Carl Sagan

The Carl Sagan Institute

The interdisciplinary Carl Sagan Institute is actively searching for signs of life on other worlds, creating novel strategies – a “forensic toolkit” -- for discovering life from the solar system to the Galaxy. Researchers at CSI explore planets, moons and planetary systems, including how they form and evolve, and whether they can harbor life.

Explore the CSI website.

Cassini and Saturn


Cornell astronomers have been, and are, leading the direction of space exploration, including having chaired NASA’s Advisory Council and Space Science Advisory as well as panels for the Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey 2023-2032. Cornell astronomers currently have roles in almost three-quarters of all active NASA missions, including the Perseverance Mars2020 and Insight missions currently on Mars; the Juno mission exploring Jupiter; the forthcoming Europa Clipper mission to an ocean world, the James Webb Space Telescope that will search for exoplanets; and the Dragonfly mission to Titan.

See the current missions


This artist’s concept portrays the seven rocky exoplanets within the TRAPPIST-1 system, located about 39 light-years from Earth.
Nasa/JPL/CalTech - provided

Featured Mission: James Webb Space Telescope

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope — the largest and most powerful space science observatory ever built — is designed to give astronomers unprecedented insight into the mysteries of the cosmos. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency. It is scheduled to launch this fall. Cornell University scientists are playing key roles in the mission.

Click here to learn more about the involvement of CCAPS researchers.


More News
Taryn Langtry at Cornell's Spacecraft Planetary Imaging Facility.
Taryn Langtry at Cornell's Spacecraft Planetary Imaging Facility. Cornell Chronicle

SPIF: Bringing Research and Educational Support to the Community

The Spacecraft Planetary Image Facility (SPIF) is an active research facility, providing assistance to students and planetary scientists worldwide in GIS and image processing. It is also a public facility open to visitors, and provides outreach services and PreK-12 educational support throughout the Central New York region, and beyond through virtual programs. SPIF supports the Cornell Department of Astronomy in undergraduate education, student research, NASA mission science operations, and community outreach. The facility is located on Cornell's main Ithaca campus in the Space Sciences Building. It has been in operation since 1980 and is currently sponsored by the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science (CCAPS).

Explore the research areas


Black Holes and Neutron Stars

Research on black holes and neutron stars is an active area of study in Cornell Astronomy. 

Read more about Black Holes and Neutron Stars


Cosmology and the Distant Universe

Cosmology is the study of the evolution of the Universe.

Read more about Cosmology and the Distant Universe

Accretion disk

Disks and Jets

Accretion disks form around many astronomical objects ranging from stars to massive black holes in the centers of galaxies.

Read more about Disks and Jets

Pulsar timing

Extreme Physics and Astrophysics of Compact Objects

Extreme Physics and Astrophysics of Compact Objects

Read more about Extreme Physics and Astrophysics of Compact Objects

CCAT telescope

Galaxies Across the Universe

Cornell astronomers study the history and evolution of galaxies across the universe and throughout cosmic time, using both ground- and space-based telescopes spanning the full wavelength range of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Read more about Galaxies Across the Universe


Planetary Exploration and Exoplanets

The department has strong research programs in solar system exploration.

Read more about Planetary Exploration and Exoplanets