Department News

Dolores Hill Honored at White House

This June, Dolores Hill, co-lead of the OSIRIS-REx Target Asteroids! program, was honored as a White House Champion of Change for her "dedication to increasing public engagement in science and science literacy."

Department News

Dolores Hill Honored at White House

This June, Dolores Hill, co-lead of the OSIRIS-REx Target Asteroids! program, was honored as a White House Champion of Change for her "dedication to increasing public engagement in science and science literacy." Through her work at LPL, Dolores, a senior research specialist, has been sharing her love of science (and especially meteorites) for 32 years.

Take a moment to read more about Dolores and her outstanding work promoting citizen science:

Kuiper Papers Indexed Online

The papers of LPL's founder, Dr. Gerard P. Kuiper, have been indexed online by the University of Arizona Special Collections Library. The index is available at:

http://speccoll.library.arizona.edu/collections/gerard-p-kuiper-papers

Department News

Kuiper Papers Indexed Online

The papers of LPL's founder, Dr. Gerard P. Kuiper, have been indexed online by the University of Arizona Special Collections Library. The index is available at:

http://speccoll.library.arizona.edu/collections/gerard-p-kuiper-papers

This finding aid is an excellent resource for scientists and historians and provides fascinating insight into the life and career of one of the pioneers of planetary science.

 

Two New Associate Professors Join LPL

LPL is excited to welcome two new faculty members starting Fall 2013—Drs. Travis Barman and Walt Harris both joined the LPL faculty as associate professors. Travis and Walt bring diverse and unique strengths to LPL and we look forward to many productive collaborations.

Department News

Two New Associate Professors Join LPL

LPL is excited to welcome two new faculty members starting Fall 2013—Drs. Travis Barman and Walt Harris both joined the LPL faculty as associate professors. Travis and Walt bring diverse and unique strengths to LPL and we look forward to many productive collaborations.


Travis Barman moved to Tucson from Flagstaff, where he worked as an astronomer at Lowell Observatory for seven years. Prior to Lowell, he was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles, and at Wichita State University. Travis received his Ph.D. at the University of Georgia. Travis’ research primarily involves numerical modeling of exoplanet atmospheres. These models guide a number of observational programs to study various classes of exoplanets, from super-Earths to massive young planets. By comparing theoretical model spectra to real photometric and spectroscopic observations, a variety of planet properties can be deduced. Atmospheric structure (horizontal and vertical run of temperature and pressure), surface gravities, chemical composition, and global wind patterns are a few examples of the kinds of planet properties we seek through model observation comparisons. Travis is also heavily involved in a ground-based survey to directly image young exoplanets using the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI). GPI is an extreme adaptive optics instrument being commissioned on Gemini-South this fall and, over the next several years, will be used to discover many young planetary systems. These discoveries will reveal new insights into planet evolution.


Walt Harris is an experimental planetary scientist with an interest in comets and the intersection between the space environment and the atmospheres of the planets and their satellites. He comes to LPL after serving for the past 6 years on the faculty of the University of California, Davis. Walt began his career at the Space Physics Research Lab at the University of Michigan where he earned his Ph.D. constructing and flying sounding rocket borne ultraviolet spectrometer to study the Jovian aurora. After graduating, he moved to the University of Wisconsin Space Astronomy Lab to work with the ultraviolet polarization group on a series of sounding rocket experiments, including two flights as principle investigator. While at Wisconsin, his research focus shifted toward ground and space based observations of comet atmospheres, and he began a collaboration with the space physics interferometry group centered on the development of all-reflective spatial heterodyne spectrometers. These areas now reflect the core of his research. Walt's interest in comets is centered on the photochemical evolution of volatiles liberated from the nucleus with an emphasis on identifying compositional variations with time and active region. He uses a combination of existing custom-built instruments for these studies. He also has active programs to develop heterodyne spectrometers, which are compact remote sensors capable of delivering wide field high resolution spectroscopy of extended objects, for use at ground based telescopes and a variety space platforms. His current projects in this area include a prototype broadband instrument under construction at the Lick Observatory and an ultraviolet sounding rocket experiment to study the interplanetary medium.

LPL Welcomes Seven New Graduate Students

Patrick Harner; M.A. in Earth and Environmental Sciences, Weslayan; B.A. in History, College of William and Mary; interests in remote sensing and geochemistry.

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LPL Welcomes Seven New Graduate Students

Patrick Harner; M.A. in Earth and Environmental Sciences, Weslayan; B.A. in History, College of William and Mary; interests in remote sensing and geochemistry.

Tad Komacek; B.S. in Geophysical Sciences, B.A. in Physics (Astrophysics), University of Chicago; interests in planetary formation and evolution, extrasolar dynamics.

Margaret LandisB.S. in Physics and Astronomy, Northern Arizona University; interests in impact cratering, disks, solar system formation.

Sarah PeacockB.A. in Astronomy-Physics, University of Virginia; interests in exoplanet atmospheres and astrobiology.

Molly SimonB.S. in Geophysical Science, University of Chicago; interests in planet formation, extrasolar planets.

Xianyu Tan; M.Phil of Planetary Science, University of Hong Kong; B.S. in Geophysics, University of Science and Technology of China; interests in planetary dynamics, exoplanets, Kuiper Belt.

Hannah TanquaryB.S. in Physics (Astronomy) and Computational Physics, Eastern Illinois University; interests in exoplanets, minor planets, asteroids.

Get to Know a Post-Doc: Julia Bodnarik

Julia Bodnarik joined LPL in February 2013. She works with Dr.

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Get to Know a Post-Doc: Julia Bodnarik

Julia Bodnarik joined LPL in February 2013. She works with Dr. William Boynton, mapping epithermal neutron count rates from the Lunar Exploration Neutron Detectors on board NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to understand hydrogen migration on the Moon. Julia earned her Ph.D. in 2013 from Vanderbilt University conducting research as a Cooperative Education Graduate Student and Civil Servant at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA GSFC) in Greenbelt, Maryland. She worked on the research and development of neutron/gamma-ray instrumentation for space-based lander and rover applications to differentiate between bulk elemental compositions of different asteroid types, in particular C-type asteroids, under the mentorship and guidance of a team of advisers including Dr. Ann Parsons (NASA GSFC), Dr. Jeff Schweitzer (University of Connecticut), Dr. Jason Dworkin (NASA GSFC), Dr. Keivan Stassun (Vanderbilt University), and Dr. Arnold Burger (Fisk University). The instrument uses a 14-MeV pulsed neutron generator, to probe the subsurface regolith over a meter radius and down to depths of 1 meter, and neutron and gamma-ray detectors, to discern the in situ bulk elemental composition of the subsurface regolith. She conducted her instrumentation experiments at a unique outdoor neutron and gamma-ray test facility that she created and developed with collaborators at NASA GSFC. 

Julia is originally from Warner, New Hampshire. She earned a M.A. in Physics from Fisk University and a B.S. in Physics from Wichita State University.  Her M.S. research involved astrophysics modeling and research and development of a hand-held sized X-Ray diffraction and X-ray flourescence instrument under the guidance of Dr. Keith Gendreau, Dr. Zaven Arzoumanian and Dr. Vanderlei Martins at NASA/GSFC.  Before entering the research world of planetary science, Julia worked as a telescope operator and systems support associate on Mauna Kea in Hawaii for both the Smithsonian Sub-millimeter Array and the Gemini North observatories.

When she's not at LPL, Julia enjoys painting, outdoor activities, reading and dancing.

Get to Know a Post-Doc: Matt Chojnacki

Matthew Chojnacki joined LPL in January 2013, working as a post-doctoral fellow for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's (MRO) High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) with that cam

Department News

Get to Know a Post-Doc: Matt Chojnacki

Matthew Chojnacki joined LPL in January 2013, working as a post-doctoral fellow for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's (MRO) High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) with that camera’s Principle Investigator Alfred McEwen. There he has been working on projects involving the geologic, morphologic, and climatic evolutions of Mars. Specifically, quantify and characterizing contemporary aqueous and aeolian transport on the Martian surface as detected with paired HiRISE images.  Additionally, he works with HiRISE targeting specialists in imaging sites of geologic interest to maximize the science return of the MRO mission. Matt also participates with two other NASA spacecraft instrument teams, with the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) onboard Mars Odyssey (MO) satellite and Panoramic Camera (Pancam) onboard the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER).

Originally from Colorado, Matt grew up in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, where he was introduced to geology and snow skiing. Prior to graduate school, Matt held a successful career on the United States Ski Team, where he competed in the acrobatic discipline of freestyle aerial ski jumping. He traveled the world participating in three World Championships, one Olympics, and collected multiple National and International titles including a Guinness World Record for difficulty. Matt received his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Planetary Geology from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 2013.

Steve Kortenkamp is Teaching Teams Program Coordinator

Dr. Steve Kortenkamp has become the new Coordinator of the Teaching Teams Program (TTP).

Department News

Steve Kortenkamp is Teaching Teams Program Coordinator

Dr. Steve Kortenkamp has become the new Coordinator of the Teaching Teams Program (TTP). TTP, which is best-known for its support for preceptors in undergraduate classes, was originally developed by Professor Hal Larson. In recent years, Natalia deRoock has served as the coordinator, but Natalia is moving on to join her husband Roberto (who has also worked for TTP), who accepted a position at Arizona State University.

Steve has taught General Education courses in LPL for several years, and was the 2011 winner of the College of Science award for Innovation in Teaching. He has been working as Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, doing research on orbital dynamics and developing K-12 outreach programs. In addition, Steve is the author of more than a dozen children’s books about space and space science.

We welcome Steve to his expanded role at LPL!

New Member of Kuiper SYS Team

Eneida Lima recently joined LPL as an IT Support Analyst, Principal. She comes to LPL from the UA Department of Computer Science, where she worked for four years; her responsibilities included instructional labs, desktops, and servers. She also led the migration of most of the department’s infrastructure servers to a virtual environment.

Department News

New Member of Kuiper SYS Team

Eneida Lima recently joined LPL as an IT Support Analyst, Principal. She comes to LPL from the UA Department of Computer Science, where she worked for four years; her responsibilities included instructional labs, desktops, and servers. She also led the migration of most of the department’s infrastructure servers to a virtual environment. Before moving to Computer Science, Eneida worked for nine years for the Department of Geosciences. There, she wore many hats, being responsible for most of the department’s IT needs. Eneida is a native of Brazil and immigrated to the U.S. 15 years ago. Eneida says that she is looking forward to working with us and she reports that she has had a great welcome from our community.

OSIRIS-REx confirmation, Drake portrait unveiling, and retirement celebrations

In May, the OSIRIS-REx mission received its confirmation, a major marker in the journey from proposal to actual mission. The confirmation gives the mission the authority to begin building hardware.

The confirmation provided the impetus for the retirements of two key figures in the mission, LPL’s Peter Smith, and Lockheed-Martin’s Joe Vellinga, the Flight Systems Manager.

Department News

OSIRIS-REx confirmation, Drake portrait unveiling, and retirement celebrations

In May, the OSIRIS-REx mission received its confirmation, a major marker in the journey from proposal to actual mission. The confirmation gives the mission the authority to begin building hardware.

The confirmation provided the impetus for the retirements of two key figures in the mission, LPL’s Peter Smith, and Lockheed-Martin’s Joe Vellinga, the Flight Systems Manager.

In addition, at a May 22 celebration that included these milestones, a portrait of Michael J. Drake was unveiled. Mike was the original Principal Investigator of the mission and its predecessor proposals. In addition, he was the Head of the Department of Planetary Sciences and Director of LPL for more than 15 years. The UA building which houses most of the Tucson work on OSIRIS-REx was renamed the Michael J. Drake Building after Mike’s death in 2011.

 

 

Fall 2013 Field Trip (PTYS 594A)

Northern New Mexico and the KT Boundary Layer
by Shane Byrne

This trip took us farther afield than any in recent memory, as we ventured into New Mexico and Colorado and logged about 1500 miles over five days. We had three great sites to visit and couldn’t decide between them and so in the end decided to do everything.

Department News

Fall 2013 Field Trip (PTYS 594A)

Northern New Mexico and the KT Boundary Layer
by Shane Byrne

This trip took us farther afield than any in recent memory, as we ventured into New Mexico and Colorado and logged about 1500 miles over five days. We had three great sites to visit and couldn’t decide between them and so in the end decided to do everything.

First up was the Zuni-Bandera volcanic field in the El Malpais National Monument (this was pre-shutdown fortunately). We were lucky that our newest LPL faculty member, Christopher Hamilton, who has studied these lava flows, was able to join us. Out on the flows we were able to see the results of inflation, a process where molten lava is emplaced underneath a solid covering rather than flowing on the surface. Lava flows of this kind are likely to be the most common on the terrestrial planets.  A nearby lava tube also sported an interior with perennial ice—lava tube caves are known on the Moon and Mars and may have icy interiors as well.

Our second main trip area was Valles Caldera near Santa Fe. This is the site of a large supervolcano that had its last major eruption about 1.2 million years ago. During that big eruption, the volcano produced prodigious quantities of volcanic ash that both drifted gently to the surface and later surged down the mountainside in pyroclastic flows. These thick ash deposits were welded together to form rocks called tuff, which we saw in Bandelier National Monument. This same volcanic activity caused the most recent caldera at this site to collapse leading to the 10-mile wide cavity within the Jemez mountains. Soon after this collapse, a resurgent dome began forming in the caldera and many smaller eruptions around its edge occurred over the next half million years decreasing in size as the volcanic activity petered out. We stopped at the last (and smallest) of these domes (Cerro La Jara) to take a look. We didn’t expect to coincide with a drive of hundreds of cattle through the area, but they didn’t seem to mind us.

Valles Caldera may not be done yet! Activity has recently picked up with a few small eruptions within the caldera and an increase in hydrothermal activity. We stopped at one of these hydrothermal deposits at Soda Dam where so much limestone has been deposited that construction crews had to blast through it when building the road. Changes in the subterranean plumbing (including those in response to dynamite) cause the site of the spring to move around, but we located it eventually.

After Valles Caldera we spent a rather cold night in an outlier of the Carson National Forest, but with views of the Rio Grande Gorge within walking distance made it worthwhile (even though we were shaking frost out of our camping gear the next morning). We had a very scenic drive through the southernmost portion of the Rocky Mountains toward southern Colorado for the last major stop of the trip.

One of the first things that got me interested in planetary surfaces was learning how the dinosaurs were wiped out by the effects of an asteroid impact. It was the perfect bridge between my original astronomical interests and geology (not to mention biology). I’ve had the great fortune to run these trips for a few years now. So the last stops of the trip, where we saw exposures of the ejecta layer from that impact, felt like coming full circle in a way.

This layer marks the transition from the Cretaceous to Tertiary periods and at that time the Rocky Mountains were just forming and a large inland sea within north America was in the process of disappearing with coal-forming swampy areas around its edge.

The best exposures are just west of Trinidad in southern Colorado where the ejecta from the Chicxilub crater in the Gulf of Mexico is a centimeter or two (0.5-1 inch) thick and is sandwiched between coal layers. This layer clearly stands out from the surrounding coal deposits both visually and chemically (this layer is topped with iridium-rich material from the vaporized asteroid that slowly settled out globally after the impact.). To try and preserve these exposures for future generations, we refrained from collecting samples here. Of course, we didn’t go home empty handed—there is another exposure south of Trinidad that is already heavily sampled (the Smithsonian actually carted away a few tons of material from here to preserve this important geologic and biologic transition) and all that damage made the contact a little harder to find.

Heat from the reentry of the KT impact ejecta cooked many of the dinosaurs on the spot! Those that survived died off slowly in a darkened chilled world made desolate by post-impact wildfires and acidified rain.  Supervolcanoes and large asteroid strikes both cause a lot of environmental damage. Indeed the demise of the dinosaurs has been argued by some to be related to large-scale volcanism that was in progress at about the same time as the Chicxulub impact. Luckily the Earth and the life upon it are resilient, which is why we’re here and driving around looking at the ghosts of these events 65 million years later! Sixty five million years from now there will be something alive doing the same for us.


Photo: Catherine Elder


Photo: Christa Van Laerhoven


Photo: Ali Bramson


Photo: Catherine Elder


Photo: Ali Bramson


Photo: Ingrid Daubar

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