Professors Martha Gilmore and James Greenwood recently received a NASA grant to study crater parabolas on Venus using radar data. Pictured is a Magellan radar image of Venus. Alpha Regio tessera is partly covered by the dark parabola of the impact crater Stuart on the volcanic plains. (Photo courtesy of NASA)
Like planet Earth, the geology of Venus is diverse; consisting of areas of flat plains and deformed, mountain-like terrains called tesserae. And like Earth, Mars, and the Moon, Venus is checkered with hundreds of craters.
“What’s odd about Venus’s craters, is that craters we do see are relatively young, indicating the surface of Venus has been covered by planet-wide volcanic flows,” says Martha “Marty” Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor of earth and environmental sciences. “The tesserae are the only terrains older than these volcanic flows and thus our only hope at accessing rocks from the first billion years of Venus’s history, when the planet may have had an ocean and may have been habitable.”
As the recipient of a three-year $430,801 grant from NASA’s Solar System Workings Program, Gilmore and James Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, will use Magellan radar data to create the first map of crater ejecta on Venus classified by origin on plains or tessera terrain. Their project is titled “Radar Emissivity and Dielectric Permittivity of the Venus Surface Beneath Crater Parabolas.” Crater parabolas refer to the shape of the ejecta deposits as they are carried westward by the high-altitude Venus winds.
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Astronomy graduate student Jessica Klusmeyer works with Girls in Science camp participants Aug. 7 at Macdonough Elementary School. Klusmeyer taught the girls how to use microscopes to examine different traits in the eyes of three groups of flies. The program is celebrating its fifth year this summer.
Four girls squint one eye and with the other eye gaze intently into a microscope. One says she sees caterpillars or string or pink spaghetti. Another says she sees small frogs.
“You’re actually looking at tissue that’s been smashed,” says Ruth Johnson, associate professor of biology. “Do you see those dark spots? Those are chromosomes.”
Johnson, a developmental biologist who studies how tissues and organs are shaped during development, is one of five Wesleyan faculty who taught workshops during the fifth annual Girls in Science Summer Camp, Aug. 6–10. The camp is open to all girls in grades 4, 5, and 6. The campers and instructors spent three days at Macdonough Elementary School and two days on Wesleyan’s campus learning about scientific theory, bacteria, planetary science, solar cars, nanoparticles, chromosomes, bubbles, and DNA. They also toured multiple labs and worked with college student mentors and learned about science careers.
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Avi Stein ‘17.
A group of Wesleyan faculty, students and alumni attended the 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodland, Texas March 20-24. The annual conference unites 2,000 international specialists in petrology, geochemistry, geophysics, geology and astronomy to present their latest research in planetary science over the course of several days.
Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the George I. Seney Professor of Geology Martha Gilmore coordinated Wesleyan’s group. While at the event, she presented her work on the oldest rocks on Venus and Mars gully analogues on Earth.
McKeeby MA ’17 and Tarnas ’16.
A number of her current graduate and undergraduate students attended and several also presented their work. Ben McKeeby MA ’17 discussed his work on Mars-analogue volcanic sites on Earth; Shaun Mahmood MA ’17 discussed his work on lunar water; and Avi Stein ’17 discussed his work on Venus sediments. All three of these students were supported by the NASA Connecticut Space Grant. Earth and Environmental Sciences graduate student Jordyn-Marie Dudley MA ’18 also attended the conference.
Professor Martha Gilmore and Golder MA ’13.
Numerous alumni made contributions at the conference including astronomy majors Bob Nelson MA ’69 and Jesse Tarnas ’16; earth and environmental sciences majors Tanya Harrison MA ’08, Nina Lanza MA ’06, Keenan Golder MA ’13 and James Dottin ’13.
Earth and environmental sciences and chemistry double major Peter Martin ’14 and physics major Ian Garrick-Bethell ’02 also contributed.
Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy; Martha Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology; Wilson Cauley, a post-doctoral fellow; and Nicole Arulanantham MA ’15 are the co-authors of a paper forthcoming in The Astrophysical Journal.
The paper is based on Arulanantham’s thesis research at Wesleyan. The paper also was featured in the December newsletter of the Gemini Observatory, an international observatory based in Hawaii and Chile.
“The subject of the paper, a star known as KH 15D, was recognized as an important and interesting object in the 1990s through observations made on the Wesleyan campus by undergraduate and graduate students,” Herbst explained.
Arulanantham earned a master’s degree in astronomy and is now a graduate student in the astronomy department at the University of Colorado Boulder.