Department News

Welcome Incoming 2015/2016 Graduate Students

 

Teresa Esman

B.A. in Astronomy-Physics, University of Virginia

Department News

Welcome Incoming 2015/2016 Graduate Students

 

Teresa Esman

B.A. in Astronomy-Physics, University of Virginia

comparative planetology, surfaces, atmospheres, magnetospheres, habitability

 

Nathanial Hendler

B.S. in Geosciences, University of Arizona

planet formation, surface geology

 

Wei Peng (Ben) Lew

B.S. in Physics, National Tsing Hua University (Taiwan)

exoplanets

 

Maria Steinrueck

M.S. in Technical Physics, Vienna University of Technology

exoplanets, planetary atmospheres, planet formation, theory

 

Sarah SuttonB.S. in Mathematics, B.FA in Painting

surface processes, geomorphology

 

Joana Voigt

2015/2016 German Academic Exchange Service scholar

Freie Universität Berlin: Dept. of Earth Sciences / Inst. of Geological Sciences

planetary volcanology

Recent PTYS/LPL Graduates

 
Jamie Molaro
Catherine Elder

 

Department News

Recent PTYS/LPL Graduates

 
Jamie Molaro
Catherine Elder

 

 
 
Patrick Harner
Youngmin JeongAhn
 
Huan Meng
Rob Zellem

 

 

Congratulations to Jamie Molaro, LPL's most recent graduate!

Jamie defended her Ph.D. dissertation titled, "Stress, on the Rocks: Thermally Induced Stresses in Rocks and Microstructures on Airless Bodies, Implications for Breakdown," on July 29, 2015. Her research advisor was Associate Professor Shane Byrne. Jamie will begin a NASA postdoc at JPL with ?? in ??

 

Autumn Durfey is here!

LPL Associate Staff Scientist Veronica Bray and her husband Karl Durfey welcomed baby girl Autumn Elsie Durfey into the world on March 6, 2015. Autumn arrived at 7lb, 9oz. Veronica reports that, "she’s very easy going and smiley so far (phew!!!)." Congratulations, Veronica and Karl!

 

 

 

 

 

Department News

Autumn Durfey is here!

LPL Associate Staff Scientist Veronica Bray and her husband Karl Durfey welcomed baby girl Autumn Elsie Durfey into the world on March 6, 2015. Autumn arrived at 7lb, 9oz. Veronica reports that, "she’s very easy going and smiley so far (phew!!!)." Congratulations, Veronica and Karl!

 

 

 

 

 

WISE Honors Susan Brew, Kristin Block

Two LPL staff members were honored at the awards banquet for the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program this spring.

Department News

WISE Honors Susan Brew, Kristin Block

Two LPL staff members were honored at the awards banquet for the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program this spring.

Susan Brew, Program Manager for Arizona Space Grant Consortium, received the award for Excellence in Campus Outreach for STEMM Diversity. The award celebrates Susan’s accomplishments during her 25 years with Space Grant, a program that recruits a diverse group of undergraduates into research internships projects, and, for the last 10 years, at least, can boast a 98% graduation rate with 90% of the graduates moving into either the STEMM workforce or into graduate school.

Kristin Block, a Science Operations Engineer for HiRISE, was a nominee for the award for Excellence in STEMM Diversity, based on her work as a founding board member and vice president of Tucson Women in STEM, service on the STEM-ED Advisory Panel for Children and Family Resources for reducing teen pregnancy through after-school STEM activity involvement, and other activities including the LPL Women organization and serving as vice president of the UA LGBTQ Advisory Board. In a similar vein, Kristin was also nominated for the on-campus Peter W. Likins Inclusive Excellence Award.

LPL Asteroid and Meteorite Research Highlighted in Display at Rep. McSally’s Office

A display highlighting LPL’s work on asteroids and meteorites has been constructed by Dolores Hill and installed in U.S. Representative Martha McSally’s office in Washington, D.C. University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart officially presented the display to Rep. McSally on April 22.

Department News

LPL Asteroid and Meteorite Research Highlighted in Display at Rep. McSally’s Office

A display highlighting LPL’s work on asteroids and meteorites has been constructed by Dolores Hill and installed in U.S. Representative Martha McSally’s office in Washington, D.C. University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart officially presented the display to Rep. McSally on April 22.

The display includes models of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and its target, the asteroid Bennu, as well information about LPL’s asteroid surveys, Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) and Spacewatch, and a sample of the Almahata Sitta meteorite, which was discovered as an asteroid by CSS before impacting Earth the next day. There is also information about the planetary defense aspect of asteroid studies, with photos of the Chelyabinsk fireball and Meteor Crater, and samples of the resulting meteorites from each, and information about some other meteorites of local interest.

New Members for LPL External Advisory Board

We are pleased to welcome two more community leaders as new members of LPL’s External Advisory Board: Dr. Norman Komar and Dr. Xenia King.

Dr. Komar is a retired neuroradiologist who spent the bulk of his career practicing medicine in Tucson. He received his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Michigan, and his M.D. from Wayne State University. He has been a member of the UA College of Science’s Galileo Circle for several years.

Department News

New Members for LPL External Advisory Board

We are pleased to welcome two more community leaders as new members of LPL’s External Advisory Board: Dr. Norman Komar and Dr. Xenia King.

Dr. Komar is a retired neuroradiologist who spent the bulk of his career practicing medicine in Tucson. He received his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Michigan, and his M.D. from Wayne State University. He has been a member of the UA College of Science’s Galileo Circle for several years.

Dr. King has a B.A. in Economics and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She is currently a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Arizona, but her career has included everything from being a biostatistician for NASA to being the Head of New Business Development for the New York office of the RAND Corporation.

The External Advisory Board is designed to give advice on LPL’s interactions with the broader community on all sorts of issues, ranging from branding to development, and has been particularly active in assisting with outreach and with industry relations.

LPL Fieldtrip Spring 2015: Canyonlands

by Shane Byrne

This semester, the LPL field trippers returned to a site previously visited on our fieldtrips several years ago—Canyonlands in southeast Utah. This national park contains many features familiar to planetary geologists such as graben (tectonically formed trenches where the floor has dropped in elevation) and an impact crater (although previously this was argued to be a salt diapir).

Department News

LPL Fieldtrip Spring 2015: Canyonlands

by Shane Byrne

This semester, the LPL field trippers returned to a site previously visited on our fieldtrips several years ago—Canyonlands in southeast Utah. This national park contains many features familiar to planetary geologists such as graben (tectonically formed trenches where the floor has dropped in elevation) and an impact crater (although previously this was argued to be a salt diapir).

Driving up to Canyonlands from Tucson takes a day in itself, but there was plenty to see along the route. We stopped at Walnut Canyon in Flagstaff to view some of the Colorado Plateau Stratigraphy and spectacular cross-bedding within the Coconino sandstone. Driving further, we passed through exposures of the Chinle formation and later Monument Valley, which all expose different portions of the enormously thick stratigraphic record within the Colorado Plateau. Hundreds of millions of years of history are on display here, containing chapters from marine environments and inland deserts. More recently, volcanic activity has been common on the plateau, some of these volcanoes have been removed by erosion and the vertical conduit through which magma and brecciated rock moved to the surface is often preserved. Agathla Peak in northern Arizona is one such feature (known as a diatreme) that we stopped to survey. The Plateau is no longer collecting sediments as it has been uplifted to great height. This uplift had other effects such as prompting previously slow-moving meandering rivers to erode downwards. Deeply incised meanders near the Arizona-Utah border are a testament to the uplift that has occurred here and the power of water to quickly erode though rock when the situation demands.

Our first stop in Canyonlands was Upheaval Dome, a circular structure with upward tilted layers at its center. The origin of this feature has been debated for decades. There is a thick layer of salt buried deep beneath Canyonlands. In similar locations (like Iran), this salt rises buoyancy through the rocks in a diapir and leads to circular surface features (circular features in Triton’s “cantaloupe terrain” are also thought to be due to icy diapirs).  Lately though, it’s been recognized that this is probably a heavily eroded impact crater. Certain types of fractures that we observed in the surrounding rocks require very large pressures to form, which can only realistically be produced during an impact event.

The next day, our group drove around to the southern entrance to the park. This is a little used access point through Beef Basin—little used because the roads in question are frequently impassible even to 4WD vehicles. One particularly notorious stretch known as Bobby’s Hole provided the biggest challenge, which luckily we navigated without significant incident. The reward for this rather arduous drive was to be able to drive through the Canyonlands Graben. This is a set of normal faults that allow blocks of rock a few hundred meters wide to drop downward and form steep walled trenches that we can drive through. We see graben on many solar system bodies where the surface is being stretched apart. In the case of the Canyonlands Graben, the surface rocks are being stretched because the Colorado River has eroded a deep canyon and the rocks to the east of this canyon (no longer buttressed) can now glide westward on the buried salt layer. Moving past the Graben, we stopped at the joint trail, where incredible examples of jointed rock are visible. The joints themselves are about 10 meters deep here and wide enough to walk through at the bottom. Indeed, they are wider at the bottom than the top as the lower rock layers are more easily eroded so that only a thin strip of sky is visible overhead.

Canyonlands is a truly unique place with a mix of tectonic and impact features alongside a detailed stratigraphy that records long periods of Earth’s environmental conditions. In those respects, it is similar to areas on Mars currently being explored by rovers and orbiting spacecraft.  It was certainly a long drive to get to Canyonlands and then back from Tucson, but it was certainly worth every mile.

Photos courtesy of Ali Bramson.

LPL Fieldtrip Fall 2014: Southern New Mexico

Department News

LPL Fieldtrip Fall 2014: Southern New Mexico

by Shane Byrne

As rovers crawl across the surface of Mars, they can investigate small-scale structures in sedimentary rock that can’t be seen from orbital datasets. These structures can tell us a lot about the environment within which the rocks were deposited. Terrestrial geologists have been interpreting these features for a long time, but it is a relatively new tool in planetary science. On this trip we journeyed to southern New Mexico where we saw examples of deposits from volcanic base surges and aeolian material that contain some of these sedimentary structures.

Our first stop for this LPL field trip was Kilbourne hole and the neighboring Aden lava flow (a good example of an inflated flow with polygonal fractures).  Kilbourne hole is a Maar crater i.e., where subterranean magma encounters ground water and generates repeated explosions. These explosions throw out debris and generate base surges that can mobilize these particles into cross-bedded patterns. Later erosion at Kilbourne Hole allows us to see cross-sections of this stratigraphy and occasional volcanic bombs that are embedded within it. Kilbourne Hole is also famous for its mantle xenoliths—chunks of almost pure olivine carried to the surface from great depth. They are hard to find these days as the site was been thoroughly picked over by geo-tourists, but we were lucky enough to discover a large one (~40 pounds). It is also well known for its large rattlesnake population, which we fortunately failed to discover.

After leaving Kilbourne Hole, we traveled to the White Sands dune field. Cross-bedding in the making can be observed here as gypsum sand avalanches down dune slipfaces. White Sands has many types of dunes (from parabolic to barchan) and a wide range of dune migration rates, which can be clearly measured in orbital imagery and airborne LIDAR datasets (dune migration rates can now also be routinely measured on Mars through HiRISE orbital imagery). We hiked out to Alkali Flats to see the source of the dunefield—gypsum crystalizes on the surface of a playa here before blowing eastward towards the dunes. One non-geologic highlight of the trip was the permission to camp overnight within the park. Incredibly dark skies even allowed for views of the zodiacal light and the white dunes illuminated by starlight gave this terrestrial analog an unearthly quality.

Catherine Elder at White Sands National Monument
(courtesy Margaret Landis)

White Sands
(courtesy Catherine Elder)

Up the rim of Kilbourne Hole
(courtesy Melissa Dykhuis)

LPL Outreach: Spring 2015

by Sarah Morrison

Spring is a busy time for outreach! LPL students, faculty, staff, and volunteers have reached well over 5,000 people this spring semester alone—ranging from introducing preschoolers to “space rocks” to giving popular monthly lectures at Borderlands Brewery as part of our Space Drafts Public Talk Series, a collaboration with Steward Observatory and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO).

Department News

LPL Outreach: Spring 2015

by Sarah Morrison

Spring is a busy time for outreach! LPL students, faculty, staff, and volunteers have reached well over 5,000 people this spring semester alone—ranging from introducing preschoolers to “space rocks” to giving popular monthly lectures at Borderlands Brewery as part of our Space Drafts Public Talk Series, a collaboration with Steward Observatory and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO).

LPL graduate students Ali Bramson and Donna Viola (shown) talk about "Crazy Craters!!! Windows into Martian Ice" as part of our Space Drafts Public Talk Series at Borderlands Brewery on February 11, 2015.

Other highlights for the semester included LPL participation in two events held in Phoenix: Saturday, January 31, at the Connect2STEM event on UA’s Biomedical Campus, and February 1 at the pre-Super Bowl XLIX festivities. LPL students and staff were there to showcase the department's broad research strengths and 500 football and science fans alike enjoyed learning about the OSIRIS-REx mission as well as how we discover and characterize exoplanets.

 
 
LPL graduate student Sarah Morrison and OSIRIS-REx Ambassador/LPL staff Jonna Zucarelli show off the OSIRIS-REx mission and how we use spectroscopy to figure out the composition of objects in our Solar System and beyond at Connect2STEM on January 31, 2015.
 

LPL activity tables at the Tucson Festival of Books (TFoB) were huge hits this year. The department had a strong presence at TFoB's Science City, with participation from OSIRIS-REx (led by Dolores Hill), Teaching Teams (led by Dr. Steve Kortenkamp), and LPL graduate students (led by Sarah Morrison), along with LPL’s Maria Schuchardt as Science City’s Science of Tomorrow tent manager. The graduate students themselves talked directly with over 530 people about our Solar System and beyond!

 
 
LPL graduate student Donna Viola wows a family at the Tucson Festival of Books with a comparison of our terrestrial planets on March 14, 2015.

The LPL Speaker Request form has increased our visibility to the community and allowed us to reach a more diverse audience ranging from preschool children to retirees. Keep those requests coming!

We have many more events on the way, so stay tuned!

Donation Enables Expanded Fireball Network

LPL has a long history and much experience with tracking space rocks. From astronomical surveys such as Spacewatch and the Catalina Sky Survey to the Meteorite Lab to the OSIRIS-REx sample return mission, LPL knows asteroids and meteorites. Now, thanks to a generous gift from an anonymous donor, even more expert eyes will be trained on the sky over southern Arizona.

Department News

Donation Enables Expanded Fireball Network

LPL has a long history and much experience with tracking space rocks. From astronomical surveys such as Spacewatch and the Catalina Sky Survey to the Meteorite Lab to the OSIRIS-REx sample return mission, LPL knows asteroids and meteorites. Now, thanks to a generous gift from an anonymous donor, even more expert eyes will be trained on the sky over southern Arizona. A new collaboration between LPL, the Curtin University of Perth, Australia, and the Vatican Observatory will deploy a network of all-sky cameras throughout southern Arizona. Operating every night, the cameras will monitor the sky for incoming fireballs and help recover any meteorite dropping events in the area.

Phil Bland of the Curtin University operates the Desert Fireball Network which has been successful in the recovery of two observed meteorite falls, the Bunburra Rockhole eucrite in 2007, and an unpublished 2010 event in the Nullarbor Plains of Australia. The network consists of a number of semi-autonomous systems utilizing commercial DSLR cameras. Bland has agreed to provide 4 to 5 cameras for the Tucson area. The anonymous donation to LPL will allow the lab to match Bland’s contribution and build an additional 4 to 5 cameras.The first system will be shipped to Tucson next month for testing, with the remainder delivered throughout the year. Carl Hergenrother of LPL and Jean-Baptiste Kikwaya of the Vatican Observatory will operate the network with Bland.

With its clear skies and desert terrain, southern Arizona is a productive region for meteorite fall detection and recovery. The placement of the network across the region allows fireballs to be observed from multiple locations. By “triangulating” the path of a fireball from different locales, its atmospheric trajectory can be determined resulting in a better prediction of any fall sites and the object’s pre-atmospheric orbit around the Sun.

The new network will complement a group of three existing southern Arizona all-sky fireball cameras set up last fall on Mount Lemmon, Mount Hopkins, and Kitt Peak as a collaboration between NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, LPL, Vatican Observatory, Steward Observatory, MMT Observatory and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.

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