Tag Archive for planetary

Gilmore, Greenwood, Martin ’14, Dottin ’13 Attend Planetary Science Conference

At left, James Dottin '13 and Peter Martin '14 reunited at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in March. Both presented papers at the annual conference.

At left, James Dottin ’13 and Peter Martin ’14 reunited at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in March. Both presented papers at the annual conference.

Two faculty, one student and one alumnus made paper presentations at the 45th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Tex., March 17-21.

The Planetary Science 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 included topical symposia and problem-oriented sessions. During the conference, Marty Gilmore, chair and associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, presented a paper on the “Venus Exploration Roadmap to the Venus Exploration Analysis Group (VEXAG)” on March 20.

James Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, presented “Hydrogen Isotopes of Water in the Moon: Evidence for the Giant Impact Model from Melt Inclusion and Apatite in Apollo Rock Samples,” on March 19.

Peter Martin '14 presented a poster titled "Modeling and Mineralogical Analyses of Potential Martian Chloride Brines."

Peter Martin ’14 presented a poster titled “Modeling and Mineralogical Analyses of Potential Martian Chloride Brines.”

Peter Martin ’14 presented his research on “Modeling and Mineralogical Analyses of Potential Martian Chloride Brines” on March 20.  Martin’s travel to the conference was funded by a Connecticut Space Grant and a USRA Thomas R. McGetchin Memorial Scholarship Award. Gilmore is Martin’s advisor.

James Dottin ’13, who is currently a Ph.D. student in geology at the University of Maryland,  spoke on “Isotope Evidence for Links between Sulfate Assimilation and Oxidation of Martian melts from Meteorites MIL 03346, MIL 090030, MIL 090032 and MIL 090136” on March 21.  While at Wesleyan, Dottin participated in the McNair Program. Greenwood was Dotton’s advisor.

Gilmore also presented a paper on “Are Martian Carbonates Hiding in Plain Sight? VNIR Spectra of Hydrous Carbonates,” which was co-authored by Patrick Harner MA ’13. Harner is a Ph.D. student at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. Harner completed this research while a student at Wesleyan.

Gilmore to Present Research before Film Screening in Hartford

Marty Gilmore

Marty Gilmore will present her research in Hartford on April 8.

Marty Gilmore, associate professor of earth and environmental studies, will present her work with the MARS Rover missions on Tuesday, April 8 at the final Science of Screen of the year.

The monthly Science on Screen events pair local scientists with screenings of popular movies. Gilmore’s presentation of her research will begin at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a screening of Mission to Mars.

Gilmore’s primary research involves using images of the surface of Mars and Venus to interpret geological processes and history. For example, her research includes searching for clues regarding where and when there might have been water on Mars. She is also interested in the future of planetary exploration: how to bring back soil samples from Mars and Venus and using artificial intelligence to improve the capabilities of the Mars Rovers.

The presentation and screening will take place at Real Art Ways at 56 Arbor Street in Hartford, Conn. For more information, visit the website.

NASA Grant Supports Herbst’s Observations with Spitzer Space Telescope

Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, director of graduate studies, received a $5,000 grant from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to support observations with the Spitzer Space Telescope. The title of the proposal is “Planet Formation in the Circumbinary Disk of KH 15D.”

Herbst and his colleagues are measuring the brightness of the T Tauri binary system KH 15D covering several important missing orbital phases around minimum light and one near maximum. Data is crucial to understanding the mechanisms behind the observed reddening in the system, which has implications for planetformation and disk evolution.

Learn more about this study online here.

 

Greenwood’s Study Published in Science

James “Jim” Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, and four colleagues have co-authored a paper titled “The Lunar Apatite Paradox,” published in the  journal Science on March 20. 

The study casts doubt on the theory of abundant water on the moon while simultaneously boosting theories around the creation of the moon, several billion years ago.

Hughes, Colleagues Investigate “Planetary Construction Site”

Meredith Hughes, assistant professor of astronomy, works with students on a small radio telescope, located on the roof of the Van Vleck Observatory.

Meredith Hughes, assistant professor of astronomy, works with students on a small radio telescope, located on the roof of the Van Vleck Observatory.

A curious mix of dust and gas surrounding a distant star presents a unique mystery – and possibly a front-row seat to planet formation, according to Assistant Professor of Astronomy Meredith Hughes and colleagues, whose paper on the star appears in the March 6 edition of the journal Science.

The group of astronomers, including Hughes and 13 others, were the first to identify the asymmetry and “lumpy” quality of the gas surrounding beta Pictoris, using data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. The discovery leads to two possible explanations: There may be a giant “exoplanet”  lurking nearby (forcing clumps of carbon dioxide to orbit the star on opposite sides) or there has recently been a collision between two Mars-sized bodies. More data must be analyzed to figure out which event happened.

“We actually already knew that there was gas around this star, but we didn’t know how much, or that the gas would be lumpy and asymmetric – the asymmetry is another indication that the gas was probably generated by a recent collision,” explained Hughes.

Beta Pictoris, which is actually a stellar neighbor of Earth, about 60 light years away, is in an active place for planet formation, Hughes said. And the evidence discussed in the Science paper points toward very recent (on astronomical timescales – in this case probably thousands of years) events.

Armandroff ’82 Announced as McDonald Observatory Director

Taft Armandroff ’82

Taft Armandroff ’82

Taft Armandroff ’82 has been appointed as director of the University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas. He’ll be moving to the Lone Star State in June 2014 to claim his new position.

Armandroff’s specialties include dwarf spheroidal galaxies, stellar populations in the Milky Way and nearby galaxies, and globular clusters. He will soon be leaving his current position as director of the W.M. Keck Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Prior to Keck, he worked for 19 years at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson, Ariz., having earned his BA in astronomy with honors at Wesleyan and his Ph.D. from Yale.

“I’m tremendously excited to be joining the Texas astronomy program, and to develop the McDonald Observatory further with new instrumentation and research programs, and to continue the observatory’s stellar efforts to communicate astronomy discoveries to the public,” says Armandroff, in a press release. “There are very few places like UT Austin that can boast such a strong astronomy faculty, total access to a facility like the McDonald Observatory, and participation in a next generation telescope such as the Giant Magellan Telescope.”

Redfield Speaks about Magnetic Polarity Flipping on WNPR

Seth Redfield

Seth Redfield

Seth Redfield, assistant professor of astronomy, spoke with Patrick Skahill and WNPR News on Nov. 15 about the sun flipping its magnetic polarity, which only happens every 11 years. While the change in polarity is not fully understood by scientists, the event is exciting “because this is kind of a probe into the internal workings of the sun, which is actually really hard for us to get a handle on,” according to Redfield.

This solar cycle, Cycle 24, has not been disruptive to satellites or the electric grid, which can react negatively to solar radiation. The sun’s northern hemisphere flipped earlier this summer and the southern hemisphere is poised to flip very soon.

Read the article online here.

Astronomy Students Speak at KNAC Research Symposium

Wesleyan astronomy students traveled to Vassar College Oct. 26-27 for the 24th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium sponsored by the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium.  KNAC is a group of eight colleges in New Jersey, New York and New England that have collaborated for decades to bring enhanced summer research opportunities to their students. Pictured are the 85 students and faculty who attended the conference.

Wesleyan astronomy students traveled to Vassar College Oct. 26-27 for the 24th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium sponsored by the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium. KNAC is a group of eight colleges in New Jersey, New York and New England that have collaborated for decades to bring enhanced summer research opportunities to their students. Pictured are the 85 students and faculty who attended the conference.

3 International Fulbright Scholars Studying at Wesleyan

Janette Suherli

Janette Suherli

Fulbright Fellow Janette Suherli could attend graduate school anywhere in the world, but the Indonesian resident decided to persue her master’s degree in astronomy here at Wesleyan.

“I learned about Wesleyan when I was in high school, and now I’m here because the Astronomy Department offers a great research program with well-known faculty members. The research and learning environment encourages me to be better everyday,” she said.

Suherli, who came to Wesleyan this fall, is one of three international Fulbright recipients who chose to complete their graduate studies at Wesleyan. Christine May Yong of Malaysia, plans to be at Wesleyan four to six years working on a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology. And Cristohper Ramos Flores of Mexico started his graduate studies in 2012. He’s pursuing a master’s degree in music composition.

A mainstay of America’s public-diplomacy efforts, the Fulbright Foreign Student Program brings citizens of other countries to the United States for master’s degree or Ph.D. study at U.S. universities.

Martin ’14 Receives Scholarship For Martian Brine Research

Peter Martin ’14 accepts a scholarship award from Martha Gilmore, chair and associate professor of earth and environmental sciences.

Peter Martin ’14 accepts a scholarship award from Martha Gilmore, chair and associate professor of earth and environmental sciences.

By examining highly-detailed satellite images, researchers can spot small channels formed on the sides of craters on Mars. These channels may be evidence of flowing water on Mars.

In the Gilmore lab, crystals have formed in Peter Martin's samples. "I've yet to run analysis on these specific crystals, so I can't tell you precisely what they are, but my best guess would be that they are a hydrated iron sulfate," he said.

In the Gilmore lab, crystals have formed in Peter Martin’s samples. “I’ve yet to run analysis on these specific crystals, so I can’t tell you precisely what they are, but my best guess would be that they are a hydrated iron sulfate,” he said.

Since scientists don’t exactly know what the surface of Mars is composed of, Wesleyan student Peter Martin ’14 created a modeling program that can simulate the kinds of salty water, or brine, solutions that would possibly form on Mars. For his efforts, Martin was awarded the Thomas R. McGetchin Memorial Scholarship Award. The $1,500 prize is given annually by the Universities Space Research Association in honor of the former Lunar and Planetary Institute Director, and is among five scholarship awards presented by the USRA.

Martin, who was selected from 21 applicants, is completing his Martian brine research in the planetary lab of Martha Gilmore, chair and associate professor of earth and environmental sciences.

After developing a modeling program, Martin created actual brines in the lab, and let them evaporate. The salts left behind formed various minerals including sylvite and halite. Martin uses X-ray diffraction (XRD) and visible/near-infrared spectroscopy (VNIR) to analyze the resulting evaporites. Analyses are ongoing, and Martin hopes to identify more minerals.

“The brines tell us a lot about Mars’ surface composition, mineralogy, and even hydrology,” he said.

After graduating, Martin plans to study planetary science education in graduate school.

For more information on the scholarship, see this link.

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Redfield Receives NSF Grant for Exoplanet Atmosphere Research

Seth Redfield, assistant professor of astronomy, won a three-year grant for $341,039 from the National Science Foundation Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Grants program to fund his research on “Accessing Atmospheric Properties of Terrestrial Exoplanets: Ground-Based Observations of Rayleigh Scattering and Extended Atmospheres.” The grant was awarded in August 2013.