Darren Williams 

Professor of Physics and Astronomy

- Astronomy Coordinator, Behrend Physics

- Harlow Shapley Lecturer


School of Science

Penn State Erie, The Behrend College

4205 College Drive

Erie, PA 16563-0203

814-898-6008 (phone)

814-898-6213 (fax)


Research Interests:

Exoplanet detection

Origin and dynamical evolution of planets and moons

Planetary climate and habitability

Impacts of comets and asteroids on the Earth


Recent Publications


Williams, D.M. Capture of Terrestrial-sized Moons by Gas Giant Planets. Astrobio J., 13(4): 315-323.



Williams, D.M.. 2011. The Planet Paparazzi: Earth Through the Lens of Interplanetary Spacecraft. Astrobio J., 11(5): 391-392.


Zugger, M.E., Kasting, J.F., Williams, D.M., Kane, T.J., Philbrick, C.R. 2011. Searching for Water Earths in the Near Infrared. Astrophys J., 739:12-17.



Zugger, M.E., Kasting, J.F., Williams, D.M., Kane, T.J., Philbrick, C.R. 2010. Light Scattering from Exoplanet Oceans and Atmospheres. Astrophys J., 723:1168-1179.



Williams, D.M. 2009. Space on the Plane: Encouraging Tales of a Traveling Astronomer. Sky and Telescope, April 2009.


Moskovitz, N.A., Gaidos, E., and Williams, D.M. 2009. The Effect of Lunar-like Satellites on the Orbital Infrared Light Curves of Earth-Analog Planets. Astrobiology. 9(3): 269-277.



Williams, D.M., and Gaidos, E. 2008. Detecting the Glint of Starlight on the Oceans of Distant Planets. Icarus. 195(2): 927-937.



Recent Talks

Heroes Among Us, Commencement address at Jamestown Community College, Jamestown, NY. May 2012.

Commencement Speaker and 2012 Distinguished Alumni Honoree


2012: Year of the Planets, Astronomy Open House Night, Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, Erie, PA. April 2012.


The 2012 Transit of Venus, Cambridge Springs High School, Cambridge Springs, PA. March 2012.


Snagging an Earth-Sized Moon around an Extrasolar Giant Planet, Kepler Science Conference; Ames Research Center, Moffet Field, CA. December 2011.


Astronomy Projects for Students

1. Design and build an Alt-Az telescope for labs. Some basic mechanical engineering required.

2. Design and build a cloud meter for the Behrend campus. Some software and basic mechanical engineering required.

3. Design and build an astronomical observatory LED clock counter. Some electrical and software engineering required.

4. Learn to use the AutoDesk 3DsMax software to integrate and animate the orbits of planets and moons. Familiarity with AutoDesk software and willingness to learn Maxscript programming required.

5. Use the AutoDesk software to study: orbital stability of different planetary systems; the motions of comets and asteroids; spacecraft trajectories to the Moon and planets, etc.