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Surface of the moon Enceladus

Planetary Science News

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.

Purdue professors involved in Mars rover missions
PURDUE EXPONENT — Two Purdue professors are involved in an effort that could answer one of humanity’s biggest questions – whether there is life beyond Earth – using the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover.

Leading ‘instrumental’ research on Mars: Purdue EAPS welcomes new faculty member Roger Wiens
The Purdue University Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) welcomes Professor Roger Wiens to a growing list of faculty who passionately pursue planetary science. Wiens brings with him an extensive list of accomplishments which he acquired while working for NASA at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Moshammat (Moe) Mijjum awarded INSGC graduate fellowship
The Indiana Space Grant Consortium (INSGC) has awarded Moshammat (Moe) Mijjum 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.

Analysis of Mars Audio Reveals Different Rules for Sound on the Red Planet
The Perseverance mission captured sound with microphones for the first time on Mars. A new study reveals some surprising findings about these acoustics and sound behavior. Dr. Roger Wiens of Purdue EAPS is cited in this article by Discover.

Salt may be the key to life on Earth and beyond
The composition of the atmosphere, especially the abundance of greenhouse gases, influences Earth’s climate. Researchers at Purdue University, led by Stephanie Olson, assistant professor of EAPS, have recently found that the presence of salt in seawater can also have a major impact on the habitability of Earth and other planets.

Perseverance: Nasa rover begins key drive to find life on Mars
Nasa's Perseverance rover has reached a big moment in its mission on Mars. Tuesday, the six-wheeled robot began the climb up an ancient delta feature in the crater where it landed. Dr. Briony Horgan, of Purdue EAPS, is cited in this article by BBC.

Purdue professor helps put 'ears' on Mars Perseverance rover
For more than 20 years, one Purdue University professor has worked to give us a better understanding of the planet Mars. Now, he is leading a team that accomplished something you might have to hear to believe. Purdue Planetary Science professor Roger Wiens just arrived on campus a couple of months ago, but he says the development of this technology began back in 2014. After almost five years of development, Wiens and his team have found a way to put ears on a Mars rover for the very first time.

NASA discovery earns Eagle ‘full ride’ National Science Foundation Fellowship
Purdue EAPS welcome graduate student Giovanni Bacon. He has recently been awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and will attend Purdue EAPS to begin his doctoral program. His dream is to become an astronaut scientist, studying planetary and exoplanetary atmospheres and/or astrobiology.

10 Years of Planetary Science Special Seminar: Dr. Bill McKinnon
Ten years ago, Purdue EAPS added planetary to our sciences with the hiring of Dr. Jay Melosh. Today we honor Jay's memory with a special seminar featuring his first graduate student at Purdue University: Dr. Bill McKinnon of Washington University in St. Louis. His talk was titled, "What has NASA's New Horizons mission taught us about planet formation and evolution?"

In its visit to Psyche, NASA hopes to glimpse the center of the Earth
NASA’s mission to the solar system's largest metallic asteroid promises to show us the iron-nickel core of a dead planet. New research, however, hints that this asteroid is much more. Dr. Brandon Johnson of Purdue EAPS is cited in this article by Popular Science.

Scientists come up with fresh take on moon mystery
The far side of the moon, which we can never see from our vantage point on Earth, looks surprisingly different than the orb we're used to seeing in the night sky. The near side we are so familiar with appears darker in places -- the result of the vast ancient lava flows, called lunar mare -- while the far side is covered in pock marks and craters but no mare. Why the two sides of the moon are so different has long puzzled space scientists. However, a study published last week in the journal Science Advances has come up with a new explanation for this lunar mystery. CNN reports on this study which includes a publication including Purdue EAPS Professor, Dr. Brandon Johnson.

Purdue professor: Meteor caused explosion-like noise
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The explosion many people across Indiana heard on Wednesday afternoon was caused by meteor entering the earth’s atmosphere, a Purdue University professor believes. Brandon Johnson, an associate professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, says that an event like Wednesday’s is not the norm for Indiana. For that fact, he added, it’s rare when we get to hear or see a meteor make such a spectacular entrance.

Planetary scientist helps equip rover Perseverance with 4 of the 5 human senses
For two decades, Roger Wiens has built instruments to give humans eyes and a nose on Mars – and now he’s helping add ears as well. Wiens, a professor of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences in the College of Science at Purdue University, and an expert in Mars robotics technology, led the team that built SuperCam, a device on the Perseverance Mars rover that includes a laser for zapping rocks as well as the microphone that brought the first recordings of Mars to Earth.

What Sounds Captured by NASA’s Perseverance Rover Reveal About Mars
A new study based on recordings made by the rover finds that the speed of sound is slower on the Red Planet than on Earth and that, mostly, a deep silence prevails. This study, published today, is from the SuperCam Team which includes Dr. Roger Wiens, EAPS professor. This article by NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab includes a video with audio taken from Mars.

‘Big boom’ in Southern Indiana believed to be a meteor explosion
Scientists believe the loud boom that was heard across several counties in South Central Indiana was caused by a meteor explosion. Scientists at Purdue watched surveillance videos that captured the noise and believe the boom can be attributed to an “air burst.” Dr. Brandon Johnson, of Purdue EAPS, is cited in this article by CBS4, Indy.

Mounds of ice in craters give new insight into Mars' past climate
Newly discovered deposits of layered ice in craters scattered around Mars' southern hemisphere provide insights into how the planet's orientation controlled the planet's climate over the past 4 million years, according to a new study. The findings help scientists understand what controlled Mars' past climate, which is essential for predicting when the planet could have been habitable. Dr. Mike Sori and Riley McGlasson of Purdue EAPS are cited in this article by Mars Daily.

When worlds collide: Studying impact craters to uncover the secrets of the solar system
While for humans the constants might be death and taxes, for planets the constants are gravity and collisions. Dr. Brandon Johnson, of Purdue EAPS, studies the latter, using information about impacts to understand the history and the composition of planets, moons, asteroids and meteorites throughout the solar system.

Ice on Mars gives a peek into the red planet’s climate history
Understanding the relationship between Mars’ climate and its axial tilt and orbit around the sun is one of the most important goals of Mars science. Most past studies toward this goal have studied the polar ice caps: huge sheets of water ice at the north and south pole. To gain more insight, a team of researchers, led by Michael Sori of Purdue University, have, instead, studied smaller ice deposits (only tens of kilometers in diameter) near the north and south pole but separate from the larger polar ice caps, located inside craters. The team found that the ice deposit in Burroughs Crater contains particularly good evidence that recent Martian climate is strongly controlled by changes in the planet’s orbit and axial tilt.


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