Department News

2013 Classified Staff Excellence Award

Congratulations to Terry Forrester, recipient of this year's LPL Staff Excellence Award, and kudos to Bert Orosco, cited as an honorable mention for the award. 

Department News

2013 Classified Staff Excellence Award

Congratulations to Terry Forrester, recipient of this year's LPL Staff Excellence Award, and kudos to Bert Orosco, cited as an honorable mention for the award. 

Terry Forrester is Systems Programmer Principal for HiRISE. He has a long history of service to The University of Arizona and to LPL, having begun his campus career in 1983. His colleagues recognized his service and dedication to his work, citing his availability at all hours (evenings and weekends!) to manage systems issues, coordinates maintenance schedules to minimize disruptions (even with remote HiRISE investigators located around the world). Terry was also praised for his ability to reconcile conflicting need, resolves user concerns cheerfully, and to follow-up on issues and installations. His co-workers also wrote that Terry is proactive about maintaining desktop computers for staff. His quick response time saves time and resources. Terry consistently goes beyond assigned duties by assisting with troubleshooting problems with other systems/computers.

 


Compared to Terry, Bert Orosco has been at LPL a relatively short time. However, she has made her mark as the "face" of LPL in the Academic Office. Bert has distinguished herself with her creativity and has improved upon many office procedures, in addition to taking on new and ever-changing duties. 

We appreciate all you do, Terry and Bert! 

Encountering Life in the Universe

LPL alumna and E/PO lead for OSIRIS-REx, Anna Spitz, is one of the editors of a new volume (September 2013) from the University of Arizona Press.Encountering Life in the Universe: Ethical Foundations and Social Implications of Astrobiology, edited by Chris Impey, Anna H. Spitz, and William Stoeger, "examines the intersection of scientific research and socity to further explore the ethics of how to behave in a universe where much is unknown."

Department News

Encountering Life in the Universe

by New UA Press volume edited by Impey, Spitz, and Stoeger

LPL alumna and E/PO lead for OSIRIS-REx, Anna Spitz, is one of the editors of a new volume (September 2013) from the University of Arizona Press.Encountering Life in the Universe: Ethical Foundations and Social Implications of Astrobiology, edited by Chris Impey, Anna H. Spitz, and William Stoeger, "examines the intersection of scientific research and socity to further explore the ethics of how to behave in a universe where much is unknown."

UA Press

University of Arizona Press

September 2013
272 pp.
6 x 9
6 illustrations, 4 tables
ISBN 978-0-8165-2870-7 $39.95 paper

Talking Asteroids in Washington, D.C.

On Monday, March 25th, I had the honor to give two briefings on the OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission to policy makers in Washington DC. OSIRIS-REx will visit asteroid 1999 RQ36, a carbon‐ and water‐rich object that is also one of the most potentially hazardous near‐Earth asteroids. This visit was scheduled in conjunction with the OSIRIS-REx Independent Assessment Review (IAR) on March 26th. The IAR is the last of a mission Preliminary Design Reviews and focuses on the credibility of the management, cost, and schedule plans.

Department News

Talking Asteroids in Washington, D.C.

by Dante S. Lauretta

On Monday, March 25th, I had the honor to give two briefings on the OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission to policy makers in Washington DC. OSIRIS-REx will visit asteroid 1999 RQ36, a carbon‐ and water‐rich object that is also one of the most potentially hazardous near‐Earth asteroids. This visit was scheduled in conjunction with the OSIRIS-REx Independent Assessment Review (IAR) on March 26th. The IAR is the last of a mission Preliminary Design Reviews and focuses on the credibility of the management, cost, and schedule plans.

My first stop of the day was at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), where I was scheduled to give a Brown Bag lunchtime seminar on OSIRIS-REx. Jim Green, Director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, Ed Beshore, OSIRIS-REx Deputy PI, and Shay Stautz, UA Vice President for Federal Relations joined me. We had a full house and several notable attendees including John Holdren, Director of OSTP, Philip Rubin, Principal Assistant Director for Science, and Tammy Dickinson, Senior Policy Analyst and our host. LPL alum Celinda Marsh (M.S., 2007), who now works at the Office of Management and Budget, was also able to join us. The meeting started out on a high note since I was able to pass around several fragments of the Chelyabinsk chondritic meteorite, which had exploded over Russia just one month prior to this presentation. Jim Green provided a nice overview of near-Earth objects and NASA’s wide-ranging efforts to study these bodies. I followed with a detailed overview of OSIRIS-REx, highlighting the exciting science and feed-forward technologies for the agency. Afterwards, Tammy let me know that everyone at OSTP was still talking about both the mission and the sample of Chelyabinsk that I left behind. It had several visitors that afternoon.

Later that afternoon, Shay and I traveled to Capitol Hill to provide a similar briefing for staff members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. UA worked with both full committee staff director Chris Shank as well as with Arizona Representative David Schweikert to arrange that discussion. Our host for this briefing was J.T. Jezierski, Director of Coalitions and Member Services for the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Staff representing six Committee Members attended. Again, the samples of Chelyabinsk provided an excellent introduction to the scientific value of studying asteroids and meteorites. This venue provided for a more intimate setting, with Shay and I sitting around a conference table with the staff members. I presented a general overview of asteroid science and discussed the OSIRIS-REx mission. The conversation was dynamic and covered a wide range of topics from Solar System to formation to asteroid impact hazards, and resources of near-Earth space. I also left behind a sample of Chelyabinsk for J.T. to pass on the Chairman Lamar Smith. The Chairman used the asteroid fragment to highlight the Chelyabinsk airburst event and kick-off the Full Committee Hearing - Threats from Space: A Review of Private Sector Efforts to Track and Mitigate Chairman SmithAsteroids and Meteors, Part II (see photo). 

Overall, the visits to OSTP and Capitol Hill were very successful. Asteroid research and exploration is emerging as a top priority for the United States. This avenue of research is critical to understanding Solar System origins, assessing the asteroid impact threat, and pursuing resource development in near-Earth space.

Kat Volk Graduates

Kat Volk

Department News

Kat Volk Graduates

Kat Volk

Kathryn M. Volk defended her dissertation titled "Dynamical Studies of the Kuiper Belt and the Centaurs" on April 1. Kat is a 2013 recipient of the Gerard P. Kuiper Memorial Award, presented each year to students of the Planetary Sciences who best exemplify, through the high quality of their research and the excellence of their scholastic achievements, the goals and standards established by Gerard P. Kuiper, founder of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and the Department of Planetary Sciences. During her time as a graduate student, Kat also earned the Graduate Teaching Excellence Award (Fall 2006) as well as the department award for Service and Outreach (2010). She was a two-time recipient of a College of Science Galileo Scholarship (2009 and 2011). This spring, as recipient of the Kuiper award, Kat was the department's nominee for the College of Science Scholarship award. At the College of Science awards ceremony held on April 8, Kat was named as the college-wide awardee for Scholarship, an honor given to the single most outstanding graduate researcher in the entire College of Science. Professor Renu Malhotra was Kat's dissertation advisor.

Kat will begin a position as a CITA (Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics) postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia Vancouverin the summer of 2013. 

Congratulations, Kat! 

OSIRIS-REx featured in UA Alumni Magazine

The OSIRIS-REx mission was highlighted in the Spring 2013 edition of Arizona, the UA alumni magazine, with a suite of six articles featuring Professor Dante Lauretta and some of the UA students (graduate and undergraduate) working on the mission project.

Department News

OSIRIS-REx featured in UA Alumni Magazine

The OSIRIS-REx mission was highlighted in the Spring 2013 edition of Arizona, the UA alumni magazine, with a suite of six articles featuring Professor Dante Lauretta and some of the UA students (graduate and undergraduate) working on the mission project.

OSIRIS-REx Mission: Are We Stardust?

OSIRIS-REx Students

A Scientist, Runner, and Musician Pulls an Intricate Camera System Together - on Deadline

A Sophomore Writes Code to Track a NASA Robot

An Engineer - and his Dog - Settle In To Make History

Creative Writing Meets Planetary Science

The Camera Man

OSIRIS-REx Celebrates Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)

In celebration of Women's History Month 2013 (Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), the OSIRIS-REx team developed some online resources for promoting celebrating women in STEM careers. Several current and former LPL faculty, staff, and students are featured, including Nadine Barlow, Veronica Bray, Kat Crombie, Renu Malhotra, Elisabetta Pierazzo, and Elizabeth Roemer. 

Department News

OSIRIS-REx Celebrates Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)

In celebration of Women's History Month 2013 (Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), the OSIRIS-REx team developed some online resources for promoting celebrating women in STEM careers. Several current and former LPL faculty, staff, and students are featured, including Nadine Barlow, Veronica Bray, Kat Crombie, Renu Malhotra, Elisabetta Pierazzo, and Elizabeth Roemer. 

Check out the videos, booklists, PowerPoint shows, and biographies online here.

Sarah Mattson receives Krauz Scholarship

Sarah Mattson, Senior Staff Technician with theHiRISE project, received an Emily Krauz scholarship from the University of Arizona Staff Advisory Council for the fall 2012 semester.

Department News

Sarah Mattson receives Krauz Scholarship

Sarah Mattson, Senior Staff Technician with theHiRISE project, received an Emily Krauz scholarship from the University of Arizona Staff Advisory Council for the fall 2012 semester. The scholarship award is intended to support UA classified staff in career advancement or continuing education and professional development. Sarah applied the award to enrollment in an optics course (Linear Systems and Fourier Analysis).

Congratulations, Sarah!

First LPL Women's Lunch

The first LPL Women's lunch had an impressive turnout of 36 women, representing alumnae, faculty, staff, and grad students, and many people who are combinations thereof.  We came from the Kuiper, Sonett, and Drake buildings as well as JHUAPL, BYU, and Caltech (thanks to the Titan Working Group Meeting for bringing the out-of-towners).  As a result of the lunch, our email discussion list has grown from less than twenty members to over fifty. Anyone interested in joining the email list can subscribe here.

Department News

First LPL Women's Lunch

by Kristin Block

The first LPL Women's lunch had an impressive turnout of 36 women, representing alumnae, faculty, staff, and grad students, and many people who are combinations thereof.  We came from the Kuiper, Sonett, and Drake buildings as well as JHUAPL, BYU, and Caltech (thanks to the Titan Working Group Meeting for bringing the out-of-towners).  As a result of the lunch, our email discussion list has grown from less than twenty members to over fifty. Anyone interested in joining the email list can subscribe here.

Additionally:

  • The personalized tour of HiRISE science operations for Drake Building people after the LPL Staff Colloquium was a joint effort organized by women who made contact at the event. We intend to continue the tradition across the LPL buildings whenever possible.

  • Because there is demonstrated interest in continuing group events, Ingrid Daubar and I submitted a mini-grant proposal to the university's Committee on the Status of Women for funding to support future meetings, networking opportunities, guest speakers, and mentoring, community building and outreach events. The mini-grant proposal was successful, and the "LPL Women" project was awarded funds in support of fostering a sense of community within the women of LPL; fostering a sense of community and inclusion on campus by reaching out to other women in science groups through joint discussions or social events; providing time and space to discuss issues such as those raised by the Strategic Planning Committee; increasing awareness of resources and career options; participating as "LPL Women" at LPL general public and children's outeach events.

  • A number of LPL Women are now connected to Steward Observatory's Women in Science Forum and vice-versa, a trend Vanessa Bailey (graduate student in Astronomy) and I are actively promoting.

We welcome new members and ideas for further activities!

Tucson Festival of Books 2013

The UA Campus played host again this spring to the annual Tucson Festival of Books. This year's event, the fifth annual festival, was held March 9-10, 2013; the event was a huge success despite some wild spring weather at the start.

Department News

Tucson Festival of Books 2013

The UA Campus played host again this spring to the annual Tucson Festival of Books. This year's event, the fifth annual festival, was held March 9-10, 2013; the event was a huge success despite some wild spring weather at the start.

LPL faculty, staff, and graduate students participated in the festival as part of theUA ScienceCity, located on the UA mall directly in front of the Kuiper Space Sciences building. Highlights of the LPL events included OSIRIS-REx staff and ambassadors describing the mission and talking about meteorites and impact cratering. Also featured was Assistant Professor Tamara Rogers, who presented an informal talk on "Mysteries of the Sun: What We Know and What We're Learning." This opportunity for outreach was greatly facilitated with volunteer staffing from the College of Science community volunteers.

The Tucson Festival of Books is free and open to the public. It has become one of the most anticipated and well attended book fairs in the U.S., attracting approximately 100,00 attendees, 450 authors, and 300 exhibitors.

Christa Van Laerhoven talks asteroids, with Ross Dubois.

Dolores Hill is all about meteorites. Photo courtesy Melodye Farmer.

OREx Ambassador Jonna Alley and a young scientist.

OREx Ambassadors busy with an interested visitor. Photo courtesy Melodye Farmer.

Dolores Hill, Catherine Elder, and Anna Spitz at the meteorite table.

Photo courtesy Melodye Farmer.

Maria Schuchardt demonstrates impact cratering.

The OREx table featured the Women in Planetary Science project.

LPL Fieldtrip Spring 2013 – Mojave Desert Remote Sensing

Whether by telescope or spacecraft, when we look at the surfaces of other planets we do so through remote sensing instruments.  There is a wide variety of such instruments from Synthetic Aperture Radars to visible wavelength cameras and an even wider range of geologic features to examine from sand dunes to lava flows.  On Earth, remote sensing is further complicated by vegetation and features constructed by humans.  However, there is one great advantage to remote sensing data analysis on the Earth – you can actually visit the site to test your conclusions…

Department News

LPL Fieldtrip Spring 2013 – Mojave Desert Remote Sensing

by Shane Byrne

Whether by telescope or spacecraft, when we look at the surfaces of other planets we do so through remote sensing instruments.  There is a wide variety of such instruments from Synthetic Aperture Radars to visible wavelength cameras and an even wider range of geologic features to examine from sand dunes to lava flows.  On Earth, remote sensing is further complicated by vegetation and features constructed by humans.  However, there is one great advantage to remote sensing data analysis on the Earth – you can actually visit the site to test your conclusions…

On this trip we packed our bags for the Mojave Desert, but not before doing some analysis of remotely sensed data from a variety of instruments on both aircraft and spacecraft.  In this way we aim to test our ability (or the data’s ability) to determine something of the surface properties in advance.  The Mojave is a great area for such an experiment both because it has a wide variety of geology and because it is well covered by many different datasets.

After a lengthy drive, our first stop was the Kelso dunes.  Armed with a shovel (the shovel actually saw a lot of use on this trip), we set out to explain the appearance of the dunes in Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) datasets. These data show the dunes are dark in the shorter wavelength bands (such as the 5cm C-band) and brighter in the longer wavelength bands (such as the 25cm L-band and 80cm P-band).  Some digging revealed a possible cause – the upper sand is dry quartz grains (with a low dielectric constant that doesn’t scatter radar waves well); however, about 20-30 centimeters (8-12 inches) below the surface a wet layer was found. The longer wavelength radar waves may be sensing this higher dielectric constant layer and scattering more. It was late in the day, but after racking their brains about what to do next some people managed a moonlit hike to the top of the dunes.

Kelbaker Road runs through the Mojave and is full of interesting sites. Just a few miles from Kelso, we stopped at a rock outcrop that we had identified as ‘interesting’ in some hyperspectral imaging data.  Two spectrally distinct rocks were visible here that turned out to be a limestone and a shale. They in turn were quite distinct from the surrounding alluvium, which turned out to be dominated by coarse quartz grains. We pressed onward to Old Government Road, which led us down to Soda Lake (a playa).  SAR data show the playa surface to behave very differently in C, L and P bands and to have large variations from place to place.  Some more digging revealed that many of these differences were probably due to the depth where the playa sediment transitions from dry to wet.  Additionally, roughness differences between parts of the playa dominated by silt and parts dominated by evaporate deposits contributed to the differing radar brightnesses seen in the data. The Cima volcanic field was next door and we stopped here to look at roughness differences between volcanic flows of different ages and how they manifested themselves in the radar data.  Many of the Cima cinder cones also show spectral differences between their summits and lower flanks in our hyperspectral datasets.  Close inspection from hiking to the top and back (which proved to be more involved than expected) of one cone suggested weathering differences of the cinders led to the spectral differences. Finally at Cima we checked out a lava tube cave.  Recent high-resolution planetary cameras have resulted in the discovery of several such caves on Mars and the Moon.

The next day we drove a loop around the Mojave stopping first at some agricultural fields.  Some enigmatic radar-bright radial bands in these circular fields are probably due to concentric ridges at the L-band wavelength scale that result from the concentric planting of alfalfa grass.  The strongly depolarized radar return here is probably due to the vegetation itself.  Such pathological topography (not to mention the vegetation) is unexpected on other planetary surfaces.  Our second stop of the day was the Pisgah lava flow and cone (or rather what’s left of it as it’s being mined away).  We investigated obvious brightness and depolarization contacts in the radar data of the lava field that correlated with dramatic changes in surface roughness.  We also had the chance to explore Glove cave, another lava tube, and hear about the astrobiological research that happened there and its relevance for other lava tubes around the solar system.

Our final stop for this day was the Amboy lava field and cinder cone.  In visible-band orbital imagery the Amboy cone has a dark streak emanating from it to the southeast. Examination of C-band radar data suggests the streak also scatters more radar energy.  Rick Greenberg joined the trip in his plane and flew to Amboy to help us characterize the streak from the air.  On the ground the margins of the streak are very diffuse, but with the help of Rick and his passengers we were able to locate it.  Unfortunately the weather and delays on the road meant we only had the time to map out its northern edge.  The formation of the streak seems to be related to the rate of delivery of silt-size material. Within the streak, this rate seems slow enough that the dark rocks can rise to the surface forming a dark desert pavement with the brighter silt underneath. Outside the streak, continuing silt delivery seems fast enough to keep these dark rocks buried.  The radar brightness difference may also be related to this. Basalt contains appreciable iron, which the silt does not.  A desert pavement of basaltic pebbles is both rougher and has a higher dielectric constant than areas dominated by silt.

Rick and crew landed safely and camped with us in Amboy that night. The next morning we visited Broadwell lake (another playa), which (in contrast to Soda Lake) is homogeneously dark at all radar wavelengths.  The surface here is smooth packed silt and bone dry as far down as we could dig.  There’s nothing in the surface composition or roughness to scatter radar power in the backward direction towards the receiver.

A trip to the Mojave is always fun from a geological perspective. This time however we also gained a little remote sensing intuition.  Other places in the solar system are less easy to visit, but hopefully we can make more sense of their surfaces now.


Photo courtesy Rick Greenberg.


Photo courtesy Catherine Elder.


Photo courtesy Catherine Elder.


Photo courtesy Ali Bramson.


Photo courtesy James Keane


Photo courtesy Ali Bramson.

Photo courtesy James Keane.

Photo courtesy James Keane.

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