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In 1968, Darrell Strobel joined the Planetary Science Division at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson as a research associate, where he began theoretical studies of planetary atmospheres and continued his research in terrestrial aeronomy. He was promoted to assistant physicist in 1970, and in 1972 to associate physicist. Strobel joined the Naval Research Laboratory's Plasma Physics Division in 1973 as a research physicist responsible for theoretical studies of the Earth's atmosphere. In 1976 he was promoted to the head of the Atmospheric Dynamics Section in the Geophysical and Plasma Dynamics Branch. In 1984, Strobel joined the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences of The Johns Hopkins University as a professor, and also has a joint appointment as professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and is on the principal professional staff of Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. He is the author of more than 195 journal publications and 25 book chapters.
Strobel’s educational background is in physics and he specializes in planetary atmospheres/astrophysics. He studies a broad range of fundamental problems in atmospheric chemistry, dynamics, and radiation pertinent to the atmospheres of the giant planets and their satellites with the goal to understand the global structure of composition, pressure, temperature, and winds. Of particular current interest are magnetospheric plasma interactions with the extended atmospheres of Titan, Triton, Pluto, and the Galilean satellites (Io, Europa, and Ganymede) and investigation of the energy balance, ionospheric structure, and radiative output of their upper atmospheres, and the mass loading rates of the parent planets' magnetospheres. As a co-investigator of the UV Spectrometer Experiment on the Voyager Mission, he led in the identification of N2 as major constituent in the atmospheres of Titan and Triton and the interpretation of UV data in terms of energetics, charge exchange processes, and basic plasma properties of the Io plasma torus. He created, with colleagues Paul Feldman and Warren Moos of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, an active observational program with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) of Jupiter, its Io plasma torus, and the Galilean satellites.
As the Cassini Mission Orbiter Interdisciplinary Scientist for Aeronomy and Solar Wind Interaction, he is currently involved in analysis and interpretation of data being taken on the orbital tour of the Saturnian system, which started in July 2004 and has been extended through 2017. He is also a co-investigator on the New Horizons Pluto Kuiper-belt Mission, which was successfully launched on January 19, 2006, and will arrive at Pluto in July 2015.
In addition to planetary interests, he has pursued research on topics concerning the Earth's atmosphere. His early studies of the Earth's F-region ionosphere led to the recognition of the important role that thermospheric wind systems play in plasma transport and seasonal variations of the electron density. More recently, his interests in terrestrial research have been on the dynamics of the middle atmosphere and the coupling and interaction of chemistry, radiation, and dynamics, including detailed studies of the zonally averaged circulation and minor constituent transport by waves and the mean circulation, which he still pursues with his colleague Xun Zhu of the JHU Applied Physics Laboratory.