John R. Thorstensen

Academic Appointments

Professor of Physics and Astronomy
President, MDM Observatory Corporation

John Thorstensen is an optical observational astronomer. He has been at Dartmouth since 1980. His undergraduate degree was from Haverford College (1974), which was followed by graduate studies in the Berkeley (California) Astronomy Department. He specializes in observations of cataclysmic binary stars. Since 2007 he has served as the director of the MDM Observatory on Kitt Peak, Arizona; MDM is operated by a consortium of five universities. Thorstensen developed the program JSkyCalc and its antecedents, which are widely used in planning observations.

[show more]

Some selected publications are listed below.  The query form of the Astrophysics Data System will produce a comprehensive, up-to-date list.

[show less]
239 Wilder
HB 6127
Physics and Astronomy
B.A. Haverford College
Ph.D. University of California at Berkeley

Selected Publications

Thorstensen, J. R. Ringwald, F. A.,  Taylor, C. J., Sheets, H. A., Peters, C. S., Skinner, J. N., Alper, E. H., and Weil, K. E. 2017, "New or Improved Orbital Periods of Cataclysmic Binaries", 2017, Research Notes of the AAS, 1, 29.  Available at

Thorstensen, J. R., Alper, E. H., and Weil, K. E. 2016,  "A Trip to the Cataclysmic Binary Zoo: Detailed Follow-Up of 35 Recently-Discovered Systems'',  The Astronomical Journal, 152, 226.  Preprint version at arXiv:1609.02215

Halpern, J. P., and Thorstensen, J. R. 2015, "Optical Studies of Thirteen Hard X-ray Selected Cataclysmic Binaries",  Astronomical Journal, 150, 170. Available at arXiv:1510.00703

Skinner, J. N., Thorstensen, J. R., and Lepine, S. 2014, "Cataclysmic Variables in the SUPERBLINK Proper Motion Survey", Astronomical Journal, 148, 115.  Available at arXiv:1409.1921

Thorstensen, J R,, and J N Skinner, 2012, "Spectroscopy and Photometry of Cataclysmic Variable Candidates from the Catalina Real Time Survey, Astronomical Journal, 144, 81   Available at arXiv:1207:3070

Thorstensen, J R., Peters, C. S.,  and Skinner, J. N., 2010, "Optical Studies of 20 Longer-Period Cataclysmic Binaries" , Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 122, 1285 Available at arXiv:1009:1265

Thorstensen, J R, S Lepine, M Shara, 2008, "Parallax and Distance Estimates for Twelve Cataclysmic Variable Stars", Astronomical Journal, 136, 2107.  Available at arXiv:0809:1550

Thorstensen, J R and E Armstrong, 2005, “Is FIRST J102347.6+003841 Really a Cataclysmic Binary?” Astronomical Journal , 130, 759.   Available at astro-ph/0504523

Thorstensen, J R, W H Fenton, J O Patterson, J Kemp, T Krajci, and I Baraffe, 2002,  “1RXS J232953.9+062814: A Dwarf Nova with a 64-minute Orbital Period and a Conspicuous Secondary Star,” Astrophysical Journal Letters , 567, L49.   Available at astro-p/0201487

+ View 1 more

Works in progress

Thorstensen has many observations of cataclysmic binaries, most importantly orbital periods, that have not yet been published in detail; the RNAAS reference in the publications list includes many, but not all of these.  Queries from interested observers are encouraged. 

A ground-based parallax program has been suspended, because of the expected publication of the GAIA parallax and proper motion catalog in 2018.