Tag Archive for planetary

NASA Supports Planetary Origin Research at Wesleyan

Jim Greenwood

Jim Greenwood

Jim Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, professor of integrative sciences, have received a research award from NASA in the amount of $550,000 for a program titled “Experimental simulations of chondrule formation by radiative heating of hot planetesimals.”

The grant will allow Greenwood and Herbst to hire a post-doctoral fellow who will work in Greenwood’s lab in Exley Science Center to reproduce chondrules — small spherules of melted rock that formed early in the history of the solar system and hold clues to the origin of the planets.

“The origin of chondrules has been a cosmochemical mystery for many decades,” Herbst said.

Bill Herbst

Bill Herbst

Herbst and Greenwood received the support to test a new theory that they have proposed, known as the “flyby” model. In a paper to the journal Icarus published in 2016, the scientists showed that primitive solar system material irradiated by hot magma during a close flyby of a planetesimal with incandescent lava on its surface could be responsible for the formation of at least some chondrules.

The grant, which comes from the NASA program “Emerging Worlds,” will allow them to test this theory in detail.

Their interdisciplinary research grew out of a seminar series sponsored by the Planetary Science group, which is rooted in the Astronomy and E&ES departments, but has a wide following among faculty in other science and non-science departments at Wesleyan.

Faculty, Students, Alumni Attend the 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference

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 (Photo by Martha Gilmore)

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 (Photo by Martha Gilmore)

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.

Thesis Research by Arulanantham MA ’15 to Appear in Astronomy Journal

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.

Four Students Awarded NASA Connecticut Space Grants

Grant recipient Rami Hamati '19, left, at a workshop sponsored last summer by the CT Space Grant on helicopters and other small aircraft.

Grant recipient Rami Hamati ’19, left, is pictured at a workshop sponsored last summer by the Connecticut Space Grant on helicopters and other small aircraft.

Four Wesleyan undergraduate students have received grants from NASA’s Connecticut Space Grant Consortium.

Astronomy major Hannah Fritze ’18 was awarded $5,000 for an Undergraduate Research Fellowship Grant titled, “Searching for Intermediate Mass Black Holes in Ultraluminous X-ray Binaries.” This grant will support her research this coming semester on black holes with Roy Kilgard, support astronomer and research associate professor of astronomy.

Avi Stein ’17, who is majoring in astronomy, was awarded $1,000 for a Student Travel Grant. He will be presenting his research on Venus—conducted with Martha Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor of earth and environmental sciences—at the 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in March.

Rami Hamati ’19 and David Machado ’18 each received a $5,000 undergraduate scholarship. According to Seth Redfield, associate professor of astronomy, associate professor of integrative sciences, these scholarships are awarded to students who show promise as a major in a STEM field related to NASA’s mission.

Read about past recipients of Connecticut Space Grants here and here.

Redfield Speaks to Wesleyan Staff about Discovering Exoplanets

eve_astro_2016-1031005342

On Oct. 31, Seth Redfield, associate professor of astronomy, spoke on “Blue Skies on Distant Worlds” during a special luncheon for staff in Daniel Family Commons. Redfield, whose research interests focus on exoplanets and their atmospheres, explained how astronomers can detect and measure planets outside of our solar system. In the same way Earth orbits around the sun, an exoplanet will circle around a star. For some planetary systems, from Earth, astronomers can view the the exoplanet passing directly in front of its host star once per orbit.

Hughes, Leiman-Sifry Research Published in Astrophysical Journal, Nature

Meredith Hughes

Meredith Hughes

Meredith Hughes, assistant professor of astronomy, is the co-author of “Debris Disks in the Scorpius-Centaurus OB Association Resolved by Alma,” published in The Astrophysical Journal, Vo. 828, No. 1. Jesse Lieman-Sifry ’15 also is a co-author of the article.

In addition, the international weekly journal of science Nature mentioned the article in a Sept. 8 publication.

The co-authors explored the idea of carbon-monoxide potentially being in large-star disks. As explained in her abstract, “Stars twice the size of the sun can feature carbon-monoxide-rich gas disks around them, contrary to the expectation that ultraviolet radiation would have stripped away the gas.”

Hughes used the “Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in northern Chile to probe the regions around 24 young star systems, only about 5 million to 10 million years old. They chose stars surrounded by a disk of dust debris—resembling a scaled-up version of the Solar System’s Kuiper belt—this leftover material could form new planets, including gas giants.

In conclusion, the researchers noted that three of the larger stars in the sample had strong carbon monoxide emissions.

Gilmore Discusses Future of Space Exploration With Buzz Aldrin

Gilmore is a founding member of the Planetary Science Group at Wesleyan.

Professor Gilmore is a founding member of the Planetary Science Group at Wesleyan.

Martha Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor and chair of earth and environmental sciences, joined legendary astronaut and engineer Buzz Aldrin and Hoppy Price of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a discussion on WNPR about the past, present and future of space exploration. The three were guests on The Colin McEnroe Show on May 25.

Aldrin, who was one of the first two humans to walk on the moon, is the author of a new book, No Dream is Too High: Life Lessons From a Man Who Walked on the Moon.

McEnroe asked Gilmore about our current level of understanding about Mars.

“Our knowledge of Mars has really increased over the last two decades, and that’s because of a sustained series of missions, a flotilla of spacecraft in orbit, roving and on the surface of Mars that have been able to learn upon each other’s discoveries and leverage each other’s assets. We understand now not only that it was habitable on Mars at the same time that life evolved on Earth, but also where it’s habitable. And so the last rover we landed on the surface of the planet has landed in a place where there was mud and there were rivers and there was sustained water over long periods of time. So we understand now a lot about the history of Mars and the history of water on Mars and the environments that exited on Mars at the same time life was evolving on Earth.”

 

 

Students Meet Astronaut Jemison at Sturm Lecture

Dr. Mae Jemison, an astronaut, physician, Peace Corp. volunteer and dancer, delivered the annual Sturm Lecture April 19 in the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall. Her topic was "Exploring the Frontiers of Science and Human Potential." 

Dr. Mae Jemison, an astronaut, physician, Peace Corp. volunteer and dancer, delivered the annual Sturm Lecture April 19 in the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall. Her topic was “Exploring the Frontiers of Science and Human Potential.” Jemison’s sister, Dr. Ada Jemison, majored in biology at Wesleyan in 1974.

Students, Faculty, Alumni Present Research at Planetary Science Conference

From left, graduate student Ben McKeeby, Melissa Lowe ’17 and graduate student Shaun Mahmood met Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, the only geologist to go to the moon. Schmitt collected collected the samples that Lowe and Mahmood were presenting on at this meeting.

From left, graduate student Ben McKeeby, Melissa Lowe ’17 and graduate student Shaun Mahmood met Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, the only geologist to go to the moon. Schmitt collected the samples that Lowe and Mahmood are studying.

Three Wesleyan students, faculty and several alumni recently attended the 47th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas.

This conference brings together international specialists in petrology, geochemistry, geophysics, geology and astronomy to present the latest results of research in planetary science. The five-day conference was organized by topical symposia and problem-oriented sessions.

Earth and environmental sciences graduate students Ben McKeeby and Shaun Mahmood, and earth and environmental science major Melissa Lowe ’17 presented their ongoing planetary science research at the conference. Lowe received a NASA CT Space Grant travel award to attend the conference.

McKeeby shared his research titled, “An investigation of jarosite and associated alteration mineralogy
in Martian Meteorite Roberts Massif 04262 using Micro-Raman spectroscopy;” Mahmood presented his study titled, “Hydrous glasses of lunar sample 75055: A Micro-Raman spectroscopy investigation;” and Lowe spoke about her study titled “Cl-rich britholite substitution in apatite of high-titanium basalt 75055: A chlorine and REE-enriched phase of lunar phosphates.”

The students were accompanied by their advisor, James Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences. Greenwood presented on “Volatile content of the lunar magma ocean: Constraints from KREEP basalts 15382 and 15386.” In addition, Martha Gilmore, chair and professor of earth and environmental sciences and the George I. Seney Professor of Geology, was an author on two Venus presentations at the conference.

Several alumni also made contributions at the planetary sciences meeting including Ian Garrick-Bethell ‘02; Peter Martin ‘14; Bob Nelson MA ‘69; James Dottin ‘13; Keenan Golder MA’13; Tanya Harrison MA ‘08; Nina Lanza MA ’06; and Ann Ollila MA ’06.

Faculty, Students Win Research Support from NASA’s CT Space Grant Consortium

The Van Vleck Observatory on Foss Hill.

The Van Vleck Observatory on Foss Hill.

Two faculty members and three students have been awarded grants in the latest call for proposals from NASA’s Connecticut Space Grant Consortium.

Jim Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, professor of integrative sciences, were awarded $8,000 for a Faculty Collaboration Grant titled “Chondrule Formation Experiments.” This is to run high-temperature experiments on material that makes up meteorites in order to test a hypothesis that they put forward in a recent paper in Icarus this year.

Seth Redfield, associate professor of astronomy, associate professor of integrative sciences, was awarded $1,500 for a STEM Education Programming Grant

Varekamp Leads Invited Talk at Geophysical Union Meeting

varekamp

Johan “Joop” Varekamp

Johan “Joop” Varekamp, the Howard T. Stearns Professor in Earth Science, led an invited talk at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco, Dec. 2015.

The earth and space science community participated in discussions of emerging trends and the latest research. The session, which was co-authored by former Wesleyan E&ES graduate student Lauren Camfield, focused on the 2012 eruption of the Copahue volcano in Argentina.

Due to the success of the invited talk on Volcanic Hydrothermal Systems, Varekamp will be a co-editor for a special issue of a journal based on that session. As part of his role as chair-elect of the Committee on Geology and Public Policy of the Geological Society of America (GSA), he will be interviewing five candidates in Washington D.C. for the position of congressional fellow.

Herbst, Greenwood Co-Author Article on Chondrules

Bill Herbst

Bill Herbst

Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, and James Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, co-authored an article published in the planetary science journal Icarus. Their article, “A New Mechanism for Chondrule Formation: Radiative Heating by Hot Planetesimals” grew out of research seminars from the recently introduced Planetary Science graduate concentration and minor at Wesleyan.

Their work focused on chondrules, or tiny spheres of molten rock that permeate primitive meteorites and date to very close to the beginning of the solar system.

For decades, the existence of chondrules has puzzled astrophysicists and cosmochemists as no obvious heat source exists at the time and location of their formation. Herbst and Greenwood set out to find this elusive heat source by combining their expertise in astronomy and earth science, respectively.

Jim Greenwood

James Greenwood

“It could be that the heat source is hot lava — oceans of magma– that may appear on nascent planets in their earliest days. The heat source is radioactive decay of a short-lived isotope of Aluminum, incubated in planetesimals with the size of small asteroids and brought to the surface as molten rock,” Herbst said.

Most of the material available for planet formation ends up on a planet very early on. A few “lucky bits,” represented by the primitive meteorites, avoided collision with a planet until just recently.

“It is, perhaps, not surprising that many, if not all of them, had a close encounter with a hot planetesimal that produced the chondrules and, likely, the chondritic meteorite in which they are embedded,” he said.