spring

Spring 2014 Edition

Welcome to the Spring 2014 newsletter from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. It’s been a busy spring, with the normal extraordinary goings-on—Catalina Sky Survey found another asteroid just before it hit Earth, the OSIRIS-REx mission passed its Critical Design Review, and the HiRISE mission just keeps turning out spectacular images of the surface of Mars.

front 2014 spring

Spring 2014 Edition

Welcome to the Spring 2014 newsletter from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. It’s been a busy spring, with the normal extraordinary goings-on—Catalina Sky Survey found another asteroid just before it hit Earth, the OSIRIS-REx mission passed its Critical Design Review, and the HiRISE mission just keeps turning out spectacular images of the surface of Mars. But we also keep working to bring in new people and fresh ideas—Christopher Hamilton and Gilda Ballester joined the LPL faculty, we have a faculty search going in the multi-departmental Theoretical Astrophysics Program, and we’ve gone through an Academic Program Review to try to figure out how we can move on to even greater accomplishments (hopefully, you’ll hear the results of the latter two in the next newsletter).

We’ve got links to a lot of interesting news items relating to the science we do, and to the various awards that our talented graduate students keep winning (of note, Juan Lora won the department’s prestigious Kuiper Award and Ali Bramson won the College of Science’s Graduate Teaching Award). But we also have links to stories about things we do that aren’t exactly science. The graduate students (led by Jamie Molaro and James Keane) put on a spectacularly successful “Art of Planetary Science” art show, our building hosted the roll-out of “Orbiting Ray Bradbury’s Mars,” a book consisting of essays about science-fiction author Ray Bradbury (edited by LPL Kuiper Circle regular Gloria McMillan, spouse of Spacewatch director Bob McMillan), and the OSIRIS-REx team has started posting a set of videos called “321Science” on YouTube (I knew they were good when I realized I’d told someone about an “entertaining video about the Yarkovsky Effect”). And somewhere in the middle, between pure public outreach and pure science, Catalina Sky Survey is working with Planetary Resources Inc. (a company with Chris Lewicki, whose ties to LPL go back 20 years, as president) to crowdsource asteroid detection.

The bottom line is that LPL is a fantastic organization, full of people with a myriad of talents (some even show up on YouTube for their exploits at baseball games). Enjoy finding out what’s been going on with the LPL family, and if you haven’t been mentioned recently, let us know what’s happening in your life and career.

Timothy D. Swindle, Ph.D.
Department Head and Laboratory Director

Juan Lora Named Recipient of 2014 Gerard P. Kuiper Award

Congratulations to Juan M. Lora, recipient of the 2014 Gerard P. Kuiper Memorial Award.

spring 2014 Graduate Student News

Juan Lora Named Recipient of 2014 Gerard P. Kuiper Award

Congratulations to Juan M. Lora, recipient of the 2014 Gerard P. Kuiper Memorial Award.

Juan Lora earned his B.S. in Astronomy (magna cum laude) from the University of Southern California in 2009. His research objective as a graduate student at LPL has been to understand the dynamics and history of Titan’s atmosphere, the only other body in our solar system with an active “hydrological” cycle, and to develop the necessary tools for understanding the atmospheres of extra-solar, potentially “Earth-like” planets. By using his adaptation of an ‘Earth-centric’ coupled general circulation model for application to Titan, he efficiently achieved the necessary code modifications and now has a working model of the Titan atmosphere. His simulations will allow an integrated assessment of the diverse observations of Titan, ranging from the polar methane lakes to the longitudinal dunes seen at low latitudes.

As a graduate student in the Department of Planetary Sciences, Lora has already achieved excellence with his research into the patterns of insolation and the seasonal variability of cloudiness and temperature throughout Titan’s troposphere. His analysis of Titan’s troposphere is both insightful and creative and was recently published in Icarus (Lora et al., 2011). This paper clearly shows that previous modeling efforts employed unphysical parameterizations of the insolation and that the conclusions drawn from those simulations about Titan’s wind and temperature profiles are likely erroneous. Lora’s most recent work, exploring the orbitally-forced variability of the lake locations on Titan using a modern general circulation model, clearly shows his increased expertise and technical skill, even considering the already high level of achievement present in his early work.

Lora is the recipient of a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (NESSF) for 2012-2014. He will defend his dissertation on "Radiation and Dynamics in Titan's Atmosphere: Investigations of Titan's Present and Past Climate" in 2014. Associate Professor Joellen Russell is Lora's advisor.

Welcome, Christopher Hamilton!

Dr. Christopher Hamilton joined LPL this spring as an Assistant Professor. Christopher is a planetary volcanologist with an interest in field-based analogs for geologic surface processes on terrestrial planets and satellites.

spring 2014 Department News

Welcome, Christopher Hamilton!

Dr. Christopher Hamilton joined LPL this spring as an Assistant Professor. Christopher is a planetary volcanologist with an interest in field-based analogs for geologic surface processes on terrestrial planets and satellites. He comes to LPL after three years at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Planetary Geodynamics Laboratory where he worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow investigating active lava flow emplacement in Hawaii, flood lava volcanism on Mars, and tidal heating processes within Jupiter's moon Io. He earned his Ph.D. in Geology and Geophysics at the University of Hawaii researching lava–water interactions on Earth and Mars, with a focus on ice-contact volcanism in Iceland. He has also worked on volcanically triggered floods in New Zealand, volcanic successions in the Canadian Arctic, and impacts into volatile-bearing martian substrates. Christopher's research employs a combination of field observations, planetary mapping, geospatial analysis, and thermodynamic modeling. At LPL, he will continue to develop these research themes to study volcanism and aqueous floods on Earth and Mars, as well as explore new opportunities in terrestrial analog studies using unmanned aerial vehicles, machine learning systems, and industrial-scale simulation of lava and impact melt flows using metallurgical smelting techniques.

Get to Know a Post-Doc: Elisabetta Rigliaco

Elisabetta Rigliaco joined LPL in September 2011, working as a post-doctoral fellow on the evolution and dispersal of protoplanetary disks around young stars with Dr. Ilaria Pascucci.

spring 2014 Department News

Get to Know a Post-Doc: Elisabetta Rigliaco

Elisabetta Rigliaco joined LPL in September 2011, working as a post-doctoral fellow on the evolution and dispersal of protoplanetary disks around young stars with Dr. Ilaria Pascucci. Her current research primarily focuses on understanding how protoplanetary disks evolve and disperse, leading to the formation of planets. In particular she focuses on the observational analysis of the mechanisms involved in the dispersion of protoplanetary disks around young stars.

Elisabetta is from southern Italy. She studied at the University of Bologna where she earned a B.S. in Astronomy, and a M.S. in Astrophysics and Cosmology (2007) with a thesis on radio-galaxies. Elisabetta earned her Ph.D. in 2011 from the University of Florence conducting research on accretion and ejection properties of young low-mass stars. In her spare time, Elisabetta enjoys running, cooking and spending time with friends.

Get to Know a Staff Scientist: Eric Christensen

Staff Scientist Eric Christensen is Director of the Catalina Sky Survey for near-Earth objects. He returned to LPL in 2012 after a 5-year stay in Chile at the Gemini South Observatory, where he was part of the science operations group responsible for daytime and nighttime operations of the telescope and instruments.

spring 2014 Department News

Get to Know a Staff Scientist: Eric Christensen

Staff Scientist Eric Christensen is Director of the Catalina Sky Survey for near-Earth objects. He returned to LPL in 2012 after a 5-year stay in Chile at the Gemini South Observatory, where he was part of the science operations group responsible for daytime and nighttime operations of the telescope and instruments. Prior to moving to Chile, he worked as an observer and software developer for CSS for four years. In addition to near-Earth asteroid discovery and follow-up, Eric's interests include survey modeling and optimization, observatory operations, instrument commissioning, and efficient software design. He found many similarities between asteroid surveying and meteorite hunting during multiple expeditions to the Atacama Desert, which resulted in the recovery of several achondrites and carbonaceous chondrites, as well as many ordinary chondrites. Eric holds a BFA from the University of Arizona, with a concentration in ceramic sculpture.

2014 LPL Graduate Student Awards for Service and Outreach

This year, the Department of Planetary Sciences/Lunar and Planetary Laboratory was proud to recognize and award three graduate students for their efforts toward service and outreach, which includes attention to broader impacts and involvement in activities outside of academic responsibilities that benefit the department, university and the larger community:

spring 2014 Graduate Student News

2014 LPL Graduate Student Awards for Service and Outreach

This year, the Department of Planetary Sciences/Lunar and Planetary Laboratory was proud to recognize and award three graduate students for their efforts toward service and outreach, which includes attention to broader impacts and involvement in activities outside of academic responsibilities that benefit the department, university and the larger community:

In addition to being the departmental nominee, Melissa was also nominated for the college-wide outreach award.

Thanks to Melissa, James, and Jamie for their outstanding efforts in presenting science to a broader audience in 2014!

Melissa Dykhuis

James Keane

Jamie Molaro

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