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Desert Moon: A documentary about LPL's founding and early years

On June 27, LPL hosted the first viewing of the film "Desert Moon," a documentary about some of the ways that southern Arizona was involved with the early days of the lunar exploration program in the 1960s.  Naturally, a lot of it is about people who were at LPL at the time (e.g., Gerard P. Kuiper, Ewen A. Whitaker, Alan Binder, Charles Wood, Dale Cruikshank, William Hartmann). The film was produced by recent UA Journalism graduate Jason Davis as part of a NASA Arizona Space Grant graduate fellowship.

Department News

Desert Moon: A documentary about LPL's founding and early years

On June 27, LPL hosted the first viewing of the film "Desert Moon," a documentary about some of the ways that southern Arizona was involved with the early days of the lunar exploration program in the 1960s.  Naturally, a lot of it is about people who were at LPL at the time (e.g., Gerard P. Kuiper, Ewen A. Whitaker, Alan Binder, Charles Wood, Dale Cruikshank, William Hartmann). The film was produced by recent UA Journalism graduate Jason Davis as part of a NASA Arizona Space Grant graduate fellowship. Captain Mark Kelly, a former astronaut who was commander of the last Space Shuttle mission, is the film's narrator.

"Desert Moon" shows regularly at the Flandrau Planetarium on the UA campus. Visit the "Desert Moon" site to see the film trailer, read the "short stories," and access bonus scenes. Some of the story behind "Desert Moon" is also available from UA News.

To the Moon: Ranger 7 and LPL

Department News

To the Moon: Ranger 7 and LPL

LPL was featured in the Tucson Weekly cover story (To The Moon, July 21, 2014) commemorating the 50th anniversary of Ranger 7 (July 31, 1964), the first U.S. spacecraft to take close-up images of the Moon. The article centers on Gerard P. Kuiper and his role in the mission as Principal Investigator, the space race, and the establishment of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. Much of the story is told through personal recollections of Ewen Whitaker (part of Kuiper's team of experimenters for the mission), who provides insider details about the politics and personalities of the time. The article also reminds readers of the world's reaction to the mission and the implications of the science. The article served as an apt complement to this summer's Everything Lunar event and to the première of Desert Moon.

Everything Lunar at LPL

LPL's 2014 summer outreach event was themed "Everything Lunar: Celebrating the Past, Exploring the Future." The festivities were held on July 20 to mark the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing; approximately 600 guests attended.

Activities and exhibits were varied and included:

Department News

Everything Lunar at LPL

LPL's 2014 summer outreach event was themed "Everything Lunar: Celebrating the Past, Exploring the Future." The festivities were held on July 20 to mark the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing; approximately 600 guests attended.

Activities and exhibits were varied and included:

  • tours of the University of Arizona Electron Microprobe Lab
  • robotics design and testing
  • comet creations, cratering experiments, and telescopes
  • exhibits of Apollo mission hardware
  • meteorite exhibit, including a lunar meteorite
  • information about the Apollo program
  • story time with Mr. Nature Goes to the Moon

Professor Gene Giacomelli (Director, UA Controlled Environment Agriculture Center) lectured on "Creating a Lunar Greenhouse" and Professor Timothy D. Swindle (Head and Director, Department of Planetary Sciences/Lunar and Planetary Laboratory) spoke about "Studying the Apollo Lunar Samples Four Decades Later." LPL was also able to host a very well received showing of "Desert Moon," the documentary film by Jason Davis that tells the story of the origins of LPL and its contributions to the Apollo missions.

Visitors had the opportunity to speak with scientists about their research and work with the Apollo missions:

  • Dr. Spencer Titley (Professor Emeritus, Department of Geosciences) trained the Apollo astronauts-to-be about the geology of the Moon and gave them field experience with moon-like geological features at Arizona's Meteor Crater and other locations
  • Mr. Ewen Whitaker (Research Scientist, retired, Department of Planetary Sciences/LPL), worked with Dr. Gerard Kuiper to produce lunar atlases in preparation for the Apollo landings; he is an expert on lunar nomenclature and author of "Mapping and Naming the Moon"
  • Mr. Jim Scotti (Research Specialist Senior, LPL Spacewatch)
  • Dr. Veronica Bray (Associate Staff Scientist, Department of Planetary Sciences/LPL), Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LROC) team
  • Dr. Julia Bodnarik (Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Department of Planetary Sciences/LPL) uses lunar exploration neutron detectors onboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to understand hydrogen migration on the Moon
  • Ms. Dolores Hill (Research Specialist, Senior, Department of Planetary Sciences/LPL) analyzes meteorites

Thanks to all our exhibitors, volunteers, and guests for making the day so fun and educational!

LPL's Veronica Bray answered a lot of great questions about the Moon!
Lunar Sample number 15015,78 (016) was on display, as was a lot of Apollo
mission history.
Cratering experiments!
Telescopes before...
Telescopes after...
Mr. Nature Goes to the Moon!
Spencer Titley and Ewen Whitaker
Apollo mission hardware

LPLC 2014

by Margaret Landis

Department News

LPLC 2014

by Margaret Landis

This year’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory Conference (LPLC) was held August 21 and 22 in the Kuiper Space Sciences Building. Forty-seven talks and two posters were presented over the two days, culminating in a keynote talk by LPL's Dr. Travis Barman. The talk, titled "Imaging Exoplanets," described the science and technology of direct imaging extrasolar systems. A reception jointly hosted by LPL and Steward Observatory followed.

Five invited talks were given, with speakers from LPL, Steward Observatory, and the Department of Geosciences. Contributed talks also included speakers from College of Optical Sciences and the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry.

A graduate student talk competition was held the first day of the conference, judged by Drs. Travis Barman, Joe Giacalone, and Ilaria Pascucci, with eleven LPL graduate students participating. James Keane won the award for Best Talk, with Sarah Morrison and Melissa Dykhuis receiving honorable mentions.

“It couldn’t have happened without some of the best organizers I’ve worked with,” said Michelle Thompson about her experience working with co-organizers, Kelly Miller and Margaret Landis.

Registration and abstracts for the 2015 LPLC will open late summer 2015.

The Art of Planetary Science Fall 2014

by Jamie Molaro

Department News

The Art of Planetary Science Fall 2014

by Jamie Molaro

This year's Art of Planetary Science exhibition, held October 17-19, 2014, was an astounding success! More than 90 artists and scientists participated (up fifty percent from last year), and the exhibition displayed over 200 pieces of artwork. A variety of mediums were represented, including paintings, drawings, digital prints, textiles, sculpture, glasswork, poetry, and film. A range of professional levels was also represented, from students in various planetary science undergraduate level courses, to professional artists who own their own galleries. Artists who participated were primarily local to Arizona, but some came from as far away as Tennessee and New York.The show went over an entire weekend this year, drawing a crowd over more than 800 visitors.The UA Astronomy Club also set up telescopes on the mall for stargazing during the opening night. By directly connecting potential buyers and sellers, many artists sold artwork at the event, resulting in ~$9000 worth of sales.

The response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive.Tucson is uniquely suited to bringing together the art and science communities to share and be inspired by what we do, and those communities have made it clear they would like to see this event become a fixture for art and education outreach. Overall, the success achieved by The Art of Planetary Science, even only in its second year, has really been inspiring to the organizers, the art community, and the general public. It has also put the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in the spotlight for providing unique and quality science outreach.

This year, the Art of Planetary Science was run by graduate students Jamie Molaro, James Keane, Sarah Peacock, Hannah Tanquary, and Ethan Schaefer.They formed new collaborations with Flandrau Science Center, providing show-goers half off admission to the planetarium.They also held a pre-show event hosted by Borderlands Brewing Co. to help promote, and arranged for artwork from the show to be displayed at Biosphere 2 and Skybar, as well as at Craft Tucson and the Tucson Museum of Art’s Art on Tap: Art, Music, and Beer Fest. A subset of the artwork will also be displayed in the exhibit hall during the Division for Planetary Sciences 2014 Annual Meeting. The show was featured on the front page of the Arizona Daily Star, in The Daily Wildcat, UANow, and on the SideStreets Podcast.

A number of artists have generously donated work to the department, including Cui Jing (who won Best in Show), Barbara Penn, Dante Lauretta, Alex Harrison Parker, Philip Christensen, and Adrian Cornejo (who won second place in the Data category).Thanks to the support of Dr. Swindle and the department, additional equipment was purchased to extend the amount of art featured at the show, filling the Kuiper atrium as well as the fourth and fifth floors. Dr. Joe Spitale hand-made and donated the custom designed brackets used to hang the artwork. Funds were donated by the HiRISE and OSIRIS-REx teams, as well as the Space Imagery Center (SIC), to print spectacular spacecraft images for the show, which will be hung in LPL and the Drake Building. Maria Schuchardt in the SIC provided invaluable support in preparing for the event.The competition aspect of the exhibition was sponsored by a number of local businesses. Prizes were donated by Borderlands Brewing Co., Bookman’s, Arizona Art Supply, Biosphere 2, Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium, Pima Air and Space Museum, Posner's Art Store, Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory, and The Loft Cinema. The competition was juried by Dr. Travis Barman, Dr. Renu Malhotra, and Teri Pursch.

Pictures and details of the Art of Planetary Science event are at https://www.lpl.arizona.edu/art/.

 

 

LPL Fieldtrip Spring 2014: Hawaii

Hawai`i
by Shane Byrne and Christopher Hamilton

Thanks to the generosity of donors, we were able to roam farther afield than usual this semester—much farther. The southwestern United States is gifted with exceptionally diverse geology, but there are some processes, such as active volcanism, that cannot be seen in our local area.

Department News

LPL Fieldtrip Spring 2014: Hawaii

Hawai`i
by Shane Byrne and Christopher Hamilton

Thanks to the generosity of donors, we were able to roam farther afield than usual this semester—much farther. The southwestern United States is gifted with exceptionally diverse geology, but there are some processes, such as active volcanism, that cannot be seen in our local area.

In May, we packed our bags for the Big Island of Hawai`i to take a look at some of the freshest and most diverse lava flows in the world. Usually we spend just 3–5 days on these trips, but this time we spent a full two weeks on the trip and we needed every day! This trip was especially well timed as Christopher Hamilton, a planetary volcanologist with ongoing fieldwork in Hawai`i, had just joined the LPL faculty and so was able to guide us through these sites.

Hawai`i is made up of several large shield volcanoes. We spent most of the trip on the Kīlauea Volcano on the south side of the island and its two rift zones. Much of the recent volcanic activity has been concentrated there in an area that is largely covered by Volcanoes National Park. We identified two field sites that we would spend three days each at: the Ka`u Desert and Mauna Ulu. Before we left, we spent a significant amount of time working in small groups on remote sensing datasets of these areas so that by the time we got there we had projects in mind and ideas to test. We were also able to piggy-back on Christopher’s other research projects and have access to equipment such as infrared radiometers, differential-GPS, and a terrestrial scanning LIDAR.

The Ka`u Desert is not really a desert in the southwestern sense of the word, as it rains there frequently. However, it is kept relatively free of vegetation by the corrosive fumes that are emitted by the Halema`uma`u Crater at the summit of Kīlauea. The plume of these fumes frequently sweeps back and forth across this area, so this is the only fieldtrip where we all carried respirators with us—luckily we did not need to use them. Each day’s work required hiking into the desert for about an hour from Hilina Pali Road. Many of our groups worked around the location of the fresh 1974 flow although one group drove further down this road to investigate fault scarps near Hilina Pali itself.

Manua Ulu is a shield volcano that had a major eruption in the 1960s. We visited the caldera itself on the first day and saw the location of perched lava ponds on its flanks. We walked the length of a major flow southward to where it intersected Chain of Craters road and passed several breached lava dams along the way. Most of the subsequent fieldwork that people did at this site was close to where this flow crossed the road. Further along Chain of Craters Road, a flow from another eruption has blocked the road entirely before entering the sea and is now a tourist attraction.

About half the trip was devoted to investigating these two sites; on the other days we had shorter visits to additional places of interest. Lava–seawater interactions lead to spectacular explosions and we saw the results of that in two locations. Fine-grained debris from these explosions piles up in littoral cones that later can be eroded away by the waves. One of these cones is so rich in the mineral olivine that the sand on the adjoining beach is green. Another beach we visited had the more common black sand, which is basically the volcanic rock basalt that has been mechanically pounded into small pieces. Although it is not widespread on the Earth, this black sand is quite similar to the sand we see commonly on Mars. The staff at the Hawai`i Volcano Observatory also gave us a great tour and talked to us about Kīlauea and Kīlauea Iki. We had a chance to walk through the Kīlauea Iki caldera, which hosted a lava lake during an eruption in 1959. There’s still a hot heat under the surface—fissures there continue to vent steam 55 years after the eruption.

For some non-geologic planetary science, we visited the summit of Mauna Kea and thanks to the generosity of the IRTF staff had a tour of their telescope. After seeing a beautiful sunset from the summit we had a great time at a star party held in the visitors’ center at lower elevation.

Most volcanism on Earth is related to tectonic plate boundaries and is not the best analog for volcanism on planets that lack plate tectonics. Hawaiian volcanism, on the other hand, occurs in the center of the pacific plate and forms a great planetary analog. Lots of people vacation in Hawai`i, but few have the chance to dig into the geology like this. It was an extraordinary trip to a truly unique environment that we will all remember.

LPL fieldtrippers at the top of Mauna Kea

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