LPL Newsletter for June 2021

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Exploration—on Earth and elsewhere—is a prominent theme for this edition of the LPL Newsletter.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft's exploration of Bennu entered a new phase with its May 10th departure from the asteroid. With its precious cargo of asteroid dust and rocks, OSIRIS-REx is headed back to Earth, where scientists like LPL Assistant Professor Jessica Barnes are already preparing to analyze the samples upon their scheduled arrival in September 2023. Thanks to a $2M gift, Professor Barnes will be able to study the samples and explore our solar system's past with a nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometer, which facilitates analysis to the nanometer scale without destroying the samples—allowing for further exploration and discovery about the origins of the solar system. Professor Barnes will be conducting her analyses in the Kuiper Materials Imaging and Characterization Facility, where Zoe Zeszut is an instrument lab manager. Zoe is a scientist who previously worked with the OSIRIS-REx team, but she is also an artist who explores and interprets other aspects of her science through her paintings.

You may know that Associate Professor Christopher Hamilton and colleagues have been investigating the Icelandic volcanic eruptions in the Reykjanes region, using drones to conduct measurements of the eruption. Christopher's work in Iceland has been featured on CNN as well as 60 Minutes. But Christopher's not just exploring terrestrial volcanoes—he and Associate Professor Jeffrey Andrews-Hanna are co-authors on a paper that describes the discovery of a previously unknown and relatively recent volcanic deposit that suggests Mars could still be volcanically active and could potentially have harbored habitable conditions below its surface more recently than previously suspected.

Finally, we are happy to announce in this newsletter the recipients of the 2021/2022 Hitachi Electron Microscopy Scholarship, which will help two UArizona students continue their research and exploration.

Have fun exploring and contact us at PG4gdWVycz0iem52eWdiOkhOWUNZQHljeS5uZXZtYmFuLnJxaCI+SE5ZQ1lAeWN5Lm5ldm1iYW4ucnFoPC9uPg== if you'd like to be added to newsletter or event distributions.

Assistant Professor Jessica Barnes

$2M Gift Advances UArizona Space Science Initiatives

The gift will enable the purchase of a nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometer, an instrument the analysis team will use to help find answers to fundamental questions about the origins of the solar system.

OSIRIS-REx final view of Bennu.

OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft is Headed Home with Asteroid Sample

After nearly five years in space, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is on its way back to Earth with an abundance of rocks and dust from near-Earth asteroid Bennu.

Volcanoes on Mars Could be Active, Raising Possibility that Planet was Recently Habitable

New observations reveal that Mars could still be volcanically active, raising the possibility for habitable conditions below the surface of Mars in recent history. 

Two researchers attending to a drone.

RAVEN: Next Generation Mars Exploration

University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins speaks with LPL Associate Professor Christopher Hamilton about RAVEN, a groundbreaking project demonstrating the capacity to use new drone technology for planetary exploration. RAVEN is being tested in Iceland because that nation's unique, constantly evolving volcanic landscape is a close analog for Martian terrain.

Zoe Zeszut painted mythological birds perched on the Bennu features that carry their names.

Bennu in the Sky, on the Canvas and (soon) in Zoe Zeszut's Hands

Zoe is a former operations engineer with OSIRIS-REx and is currently a lab manager for the Kuiper Materials Imaging and Characterization Facility. Her work with space rocks bleeds into her hobbies. As an artist, she interprets the data and mission symbolism in creative ways through her paintings.

Nishant and Seifert

UArizona Hitachi Electron Microscopy Scholarship Winners Announced

Congratulations to Abhinav Nishant and Laura Seifert, recipients of the Hitachi Electron Microscopy Scholarship for 2021/2022. Hitachi High Technologies established this award as part of their partnership with the University of Arizona in support of the Kuiper Materials Imaging and Characterization Facility.