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Surface of the moon Enceladus

Planetary Science News

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.

Asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs also triggered a global tsunami
CNN — When a city-size asteroid slammed into Earth 66 million years ago, it wiped out the dinosaurs – and sent a monster tsunami rippling around the planet, according to new research. Dr. Brandon Johnson, of Purdue EAPS, is cited in this article by CNN.

NASA mission that could save humanity
ABC NEWS — ABC News’ Gio Benitez reports on NASA’s first attempt to deliberately crash a space probe into an asteroid 7 million miles away in a critical test of planetary defense capabilities. Dr. Michelle Thompson, of Purdue EAPS, is interviewed about the mission.

Ilana Bromberg awarded INSGC graduate fellowship
The Indiana Space Grant Consortium (INSGC) has awarded Ilana Bromberg an INSGC Graduate Fellowship.  The INSGC is one of the 52 Consortia that participate in the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program.  In the state of Indiana, INSGC is a source of NASA-related information, awards and programs.

Ancient ice volcanoes may have stained Pluto's moon blood red
INVERSE — Charon: where the floor is lava, and the lava is ice. Out in the farther reaches of our Solar System, there sits the icy dwarf planet, Pluto. Seemingly forsaken, it is not alone — as in myth, so in life, Pluto is accompanied by Charon, named after the ferryman of Greek legend whose job was to take the souls of the dead across the river Acheron (or the Styx) to Hades. Fittingly, Charon the moon is besmirched with a murky red color at its north pole reminiscent of dried blood — as if the icy terrain were a frozen battlefield. The region is even named Mordor Macula. But scientists aren’t sure exactly how it got its gory hue. Now, a new theory upends our ideas of what Charon is made up of — and its ties to Pluto. Research from EAPS PhD student, Stephanie Menten, is featured in this article by Inverse.

Lucy Flesch awarded the 2022 AGU Paul G. Silver Award for Outstanding Scientific Service
Dr. Lucy Flesch has been announced as American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) 2022 Paul G. Silver Award for Outstanding Scientific Service recipient. She is the Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs of the Purdue University College of Science and also a Professor of Geophysics in the Purdue University Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS). The Paul G. Silver Award spans AGU’s Geodesy, Seismology, and Tectonophysics sections and recognizes significant contributions to the fields of geodesy, seismology, or tectonophysics from a mid-career or senior scientist.

Purdue professor talks about significance of NASA’s return to moon
WISHTV — NASA will try again Saturday to launch its new moon rocket on a test flight. Monday’s first attempt failed due to engine trouble. The space agency said they’re changing some fueling procedures to fix the issue. Saturday’s launch will not have anyone aboard, but, if successful, will be the first rocket to fly to the moon since NASA’s Apollo program 50 years ago. It will also pave the way for NASA to launch the first woman and person of color to the moon as soon as 2024 with an actual lunar landing scheduled for 2025. Michelle Thompson, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University, spoke with News 8’s Phil Sanchez about the significance of that feat.

LOCAL Countdown to Saturday’s launch of Artemis I
WISHTV — If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That will be NASA’s mantra on Saturday as it tries for the second time to launch Artemis I, the first mission in a program aimed at taking Americans back to the moon before the end of the decade. When Saturday’s launch window opens at 2:17 p.m., Dr. Brandon Johnson, an associate professor with Purdue University’s department of earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences, will be watching.

Why pummeled planets may be promising abodes for alien life
SPACE — Cosmic impacts can make planets and moons more porous than previously thought, potentially boosting their ability to host life, a new study finds. Our moon's pockmarked surface is a testament to just how often cosmic impacts strike the planets, moons and other major bodies within the solar system. The cracks and pores that result from such pummeling can theoretically host water and potentially even microbial life. Dr. Brandon Johnson, of Purdue EAPS, is cited in this article.

The red planet is not all red. One of its craters is hiding strange green rocks
INTERESTING ENGINEERING — The Mars rover Perseverance has discovered rocks on Mars similar to those that give Hawaiian beaches their green tone. The greenish igneous rocks were spotted in Jezero, a 28-mile (45 km) wide crater that is considered home to an ancient lake on Mars. Hundreds of researchers have analyzed the data collected by Perseverance, and they claim that maybe the red planet isn’t as red as we think. Dr. Briony Horgan, of Purdue EAPS, is cited in this article.

The sands of Mars are green as well as red, rover Perseverance discovers
What the rover found once on the ground was startling: Rather than the expected sedimentary rocks – washed in by rivers and accumulated on the lake bottom – many of the rocks are volcanic in nature. Specifically, they are composed of large grains of olivine, the muddier less-gemlike version of peridot that tints so many of Hawaii’s beaches dark green. Purdue EAPS planetary scientists Roger Wiens and Briony Horgan were instrumental in the discovery and analysis of this data, recently published in a suite of papers in the journals Science and Science Advances.

NASA's Perseverance Makes New Discoveries in Mars' Jezero Crater
Scientists got a surprise when NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover began examining rocks on the floor of Jezero Crater in spring of 2021: Because the crater held a lake billions of years ago, they had expected to find sedimentary rock, which would have formed when sand and mud settled in a once-watery environment. Instead, they discovered the floor was made of two types of igneous rock – one that formed deep underground from magma, the other from volcanic activity at the surface. Purdue EAPS Prof. Roger Wiens is cited in this article.

Breaking in a new planet
PURDUE NEWS — The harder you hit something – a ball, a walnut, a geode – the more likely it is to break open. Or, if not break open, at least lose a little bit of its structural integrity, the way baseball players pummel new gloves to make them softer and more flexible. Cracks, massive or tiny, form and bear a silent, permanent witness to the impact. Studying how those impacts affect planetary bodies, asteroids, moons and other rocks in space helps planetary scientists including Brandon Johnson, associate professor, and Sean Wiggins, postdoctoral researcher, of Purdue EAPS, understand extraplanetary geology, especially where to look for precious matter including water, ice and even, potentially, microbial life.

Blushing moon could reveal secrets of planetary bodies and their red-colored regions
The Kuiper Belt is a massive region of icy planetary bodies that exists on the outermost parts of our solar system that has largely been unexplored. The most notable body in this belt is Pluto. Many of the objects in the Kuiper Belt have red regions on their surfaces. Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, is one such object that boasts of this blush. The NASA mission New Horizons spacecraft returned high resolution images of Charon and allowed planetary scientists to further study this red phenomenon. Researchers at the Purdue University Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) studied this data and performed geological analysis and modeling that determines that cryovolcanism is quite possibly cause of these massive red polar spots. They published their findings in Nature Communications on August 9, 2022.

Parts of the moon may provide stable temperatures for humans, researchers find
CNN — In early human history, caves provided people with protection from the elements and a place to call home. Now, similar formations on the moon could provide pioneering astronauts with a lunar safe haven, thanks to their Earth-like temperatures. The moon has pits with shaded areas that steadily hover around 63 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Celsius), a temperate range that's stable for humans. Dr. Briony Horgan, of Purdue EAPS, is cited in this article by CNN.

Lasers, landscape and lost magnetic fields
PURDUE NEWS — The first letter ever etched on the Martian surface is the letter L. Far from being an act of interplanetary graffiti, though, it’s there for scientific purposes. And it won’t be there forever – scientists plan to bring the marked rock home someday to be studied in a laboratory. Roger Wiens, EAPS professor and an expert in Mars robotics technology, led the team that built SuperCam, one of Mars rover Perseverance’s most innovative and effective tools. Recently, SuperCam used its laser to etch the first letter – L – on the Martian surface to learn more about Mars’ lost magnetic field.

Laser Marking on Mars
NASA — If your name begins with “L” you will like this post about the first letter to be laser engraved on Mars. Every once in a while, we see cartoons in which a Mars rover is driven in a pattern to make letters in the sand with its wheel tracks. The letters spell out a silly phrase, and the cartoon usually has aliens on the side, laughing or puzzling over the meaning. The use of lasers on board Mars rovers has also made it possible to laser-mark graffiti on Martian rocks. Dr. Roger Wiens, Principal Investigator, SuperCam / Co-Investigator, SHERLOC instrument at Purdue University, pens this article for NASA.


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