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Planetary Science

Surface of the moon Enceladus

Planetary Science News

Cloud computing and blue-sky thinking: An atmospheric scientist illuminates the science of clouds in Earth’s sky and beyond
Dr. Alexandria Johnson, of Purdue EAPS, does hard science on the most nebulous of subjects: clouds. As an atmospheric scientist and assistant professor of practice in Purdue University’s College of Science, she studies clouds wherever they are: in her lab, on Earth, throughout the solar system and into the galaxy.

Life on Mars: Purdue students at the Mars Desert Research Station
The SEARCH (Space & Earth Analogs Research Chapter of Purdue) team is a group of students who live in "on Mars" for two weeks at the Mars Desert Research Station. Purdue EAPS student Adriana Brown is one of the crew commanders for Purdue SEARCH. Purdue University Mechanical Engineering wrote about their mission.

Faculty promotions at Purdue approved by board
PURDUE UNIVERSITY — Purdue University’s Board of Trustees on Friday (April 14) approved faculty promotions. These Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary faculty were granted promotions which are effective with the 2023-24 academic year: Daniel Dawson, Michelle Thompson, Saad Haq, Alexandria Johnson, and Briony Horgan.

Bramson honored for Outstanding Teaching
Eyes glittering with excitement, Dr. Ali Bramson, assistant professor in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University, explains how radar can be used to analyze a planet’s surface and what that could mean for the next mission to Mars. It’s easy to see why her students find her classes so engaging and why she was chosen as the College of Science Faculty Awardee for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Teaching by an Assistant Professor.

Jupiter’s moons hide giant subsurface oceans – two upcoming missions are sending spacecraft to see if these moons could support life
THE CONVERSATION — On April 13, 2023, the European Space Agency is scheduled to launch a rocket carrying a spacecraft destined for Jupiter. The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer – or JUICE – will spend at least three years on Jupiter’s moons after it arrives in 2031. In October 2024, NASA is also planning to launch a robotic spacecraft named Europa Clipper to the Jovian moons, highlighting an increased interest in these distant, but fascinating, places in the solar system. Dr. Mike Sori, of Purdue EAPS, is a planetary scientist who studies the structure and evolution of solid planets and moons in the solar system and wrote this article for The Conversation.

Prof. Andrew Freed awarded Outstanding Teacher Award
The Purdue Science Student Council (PSSC) has awarded Andrew Freed, Professor with the Purdue Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), the 2023 College of Science Outstanding Teacher Award. Freed will be presented with the award on April 13, 2023 at the Purdue University Honors Convocation by Mahesh Gupta, PSSC president and Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology student at Purdue University. Freed’s name will be added to a plaque of Outstanding Teachers which hangs in the corridor leading to the College of Science Dean suite.

Rare isotopes help unlock mysteries in the Argentine Andes
EUREKALERT — Scientists studying the variations in concentrations of cosmogenic nuclides can estimate how long rocks have been exposed at the Earth’s surface. This allows researchers to gain a better understanding of planetary processes, such as rates of erosion—from nothing more than a kilogram of river sand. The work of Dr. Nat Lifton, of Purdue EAPS, PRIME Lab, and Purdue Physics and Astronomy is discussed in this EurekAlert article.

The 8 best hidden impact craters on Earth
BIG THINK — Many impact craters on Earth have been erased thanks to wind, water, and plate tectonics. But scientists have clever ways to find them. Dr. Brandon Johnson, of Purdue EAPS, is cited in this Big Think article about how to classify craters and where they can be found on Earth.

What has Perseverance found in two years on Mars?
n August 2021 on a lonely crater floor, the newest Mars rover dug into one of its first rocks. SCIENCE NEWS — The percussive drill attached to the arm of the Perseverance rover scraped the dust and top several millimeters off a rocky outcrop in a 5-centimeter-wide circle. From just above, one of the rover’s cameras captured what looked like broken shards wedged against one another. The presence of interlocking crystal textures became obvious. Those textures were not what most of the scientists who had spent years preparing for the mission expected. Dr. Briony Horgan, of Purdue EAPS, lends expert knowledge of what the rover has encountered in it's first two years on Mars.

Purdue Team of Scientists Return from Trip to Antarctica
STAR CITY NEWS — Hannah Grace, of Star City News, sat down with Dr. Marissa Tremblay, of Purdue Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, to discuss her recent trip to Antarctica.

Lifting the Veil
SCIENCE — Alien planets are shrouded in hazes that hide clues to their makeup. Lab experiments could help clear the view. Dr. Alexandria Johnson, of Purdue EAPS, is cited in this article by Some researchers, like Johnson, are focused on exoplanet clouds, who grows and studies clouds in a chamber. She wonders how clouds and hazes might interact on an exoplanet—whether, for example, haze particles might promote cloud formation by providing “nucleation sites” for gases to condense.

Geochemist leads an all-woman team onto the ice in Antarctica
PURDUE NEWS — Dr. Marissa Tremblay, assistant professor of Purdue EAPS, led her team of science experts – all of whom happen to be women – into the wilds of Antarctica to research the climate history of the continent – and the planet.

Traveling to the end of the Earth to reveal our planet’s past climate
Dr. Marissa Tremblay, of Purdue EAPS, led a team of researchers who spent weeks traveling to different parts of the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica, collecting samples of rock and installing instruments to measure present-day temperatures. The collected samples and data will be studied at Purdue University in hopes of revealing just how warm Antarctica was during the mid-Pliocene Warm Period.

NASA’s Perseverance Rover Records the First Sounds of a Dust Devil on Mars
EOS — Perseverance, its microphones, and a bit of serendipity have now led to another first, as scientists report recording the first audio of a dust devil on the Red Planet. The turbulent air column swept directly over the rover on 27 September 2021. Combined with concurrent images taken with the rover’s SuperCam camera and other sensors, scientists were able to gain new insights into the Martian atmosphere and the planet’s dust cycles and sketch out the dimensions of the dust devil itself. Dr. Roger Wiens, of Purdue EAPS, is cited in this article by EOS.

Scientists get first-ever sound recording of dust devils (tiny tornadoes of dust, grit) on Mars
When the rover Perseverance landed on Mars, it was equipped with the first working microphone on the planet’s surface. Scientists have used it to make the first-ever audio recording of an extraterrestrial whirlwind. The study was published in Nature Communications by planetary scientist Naomi Murdoch and a team of researchers at the National Higher French Institute of Aeronautics and Space and NASA. Roger Wiens, of Purdue EAPS, leads the instrument team that made the discovery.

Mars Rover Digs up Samples That Hold Life-Friendly Molecules "in Pretty Much Every Rock"'
BESTLIFE — NASA's Mars rover Perseverance has made a discovery that's exciting scientists: It has found evidence that water may have existed on the Red Planet sometime in the past, and rocks on the surface are laden with organic molecules, the basis of life on Earth. Three studies published this week—one in the journal Science and two in the journal Science Advances—summarize the findings. Dr. Briony Horgan, of Purdue EAPS, is cited in this article by BestLife.

This solar system rocks
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Michelle Thompson is a geologist. But while “geo” means earth, she studies things that are decidedly unearthly, or at least extraterrestrial: the moon and asteroids.

'I am just so excited for this step to be taken' | Purdue professor weighs in on Artemis I launch
WTHR — Purdue's planetary science program is one of the largest programs in the country to use NASA spacecraft data to learn about the solar system. After countless delays, NASA's Artemis I moon rocket lifted off early Tuesday morning. It was a mission years in the making. Dr. Ali Bramson, planetary scientist at Purdue University EAPS, sat down with WTHR to discuss the launch and importance of Artemis I.

Purdue EAPS Student Spotlight: Emma Miller
Emma Miller is a Purdue EAPS senior undergraduate student studying atmospheric science. This summer, she attended the NCAR Undergraduate Leadership Workshop in Boulder, CO. In this video, she discusses her experiences with NCAR's Undergraduate Leadership Workshop and as a student within Purdue EAPS.

Science sleuths solve century-old mystery of Martian meteorite's discovery
A toxin which makes pigs vomit is the surprising key which has unlocked the century-old mystery of the origins of a Martian meteorite, and the possible identity of the Black student who discovered it. In 1931, an unusual stone stored in the geological collection of Purdue University in the USA was identified as a pristine example of a meteorite – a piece of space rock blasted from the surface of Mars millions of years ago before being pulled into the Earth’s atmosphere. Dr. Marissa Tremblay is a co-author of this work.

Science sleuths solve century-old mystery of Martian meteorite's discovery
PHYS.ORG — A toxin that makes pigs vomit is the surprising key which has unlocked the century-old mystery of the origins of a Martian meteorite, and the possible identity of the Black student who discovered it. Dr. Marissa Tremblay of Purdue EAPS is mentioned in this article by

Pig vomit toxin key to Martian meteorite mystery
BBC Scotland — The Lafayette meteorite was found in the drawer of an American university's biology department in 1929 but nobody at the Purdue University in Indiana could remember where it came from. One theory suggested that it was donated to them by a "black student" who witnessed it land in a pond while he was fishing. Scientists have attempted to piece together Lafayette's origins by several methods, including a pig vomit toxin. Dr. Marissa Tremblay's work is cited in this BBC Scotland article.

Science Sleuths Solve Century-Old Mystery Of Martian Meteorite's Discovery
FORBES — In 1931, an unusual stone stored in the geological collection of Purdue University was identified as a pristine example of a rare Martian meteorite. The meteorite was named Lafayette after the city of Lafayette in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, where it was supposedly found. However, no written records were taken when the stone arrived at the university and how it ended up in the collection has remained unclear for more than 90 years. Dr. Marissa Tremblay, of Purdue EAPS, is mentioned in this article from Forbes.

Planet-saving asteroid test mission shows need for global teamwork
YAHOO NEWS — If an asteroid large enough to threaten mankind's survival was on a collision course with Earth, inhabitants of every country would care according to Mark Bennett of the Tribune Star. Dr. Brandon Johnson, of Purdue EAPS, is quoted in this article.


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