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Posted Jan 25, 2017

Saturn: Up close and personal

Cassini is an internationally funded mission to Saturn. It launched in 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004. Since then, it has been sending us spectacular images of the gas-giant, it’s lovely rings, and it’s diverse moons. This September, the spacecraft will be plunged into Saturn, completing it’s mission to explore the Saturnian system. One of the most notable discoveries from this mission is the evidence for liquid water on Enceladus! Here are some awe-inspiring images of Saturn, it’s rings and a tiny unusual moon called Daphnis (image credit: NASA/JPL-CalTech/Space Sciences Institute). Learn more about Cassini and Saturn here.


Posted October 5, 2014

European Rendezvous with a Comet

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta mission to Comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko (see image below) is the first mission to orbit a comet and plans to be the first to put a small robot on the surface of a comet, debris from the earliest period of solar system formation. The main differences between comets and asteroids are that comets consist of ice and rock, while asteroids are mostly rock and metal; and comets originate from the outer solar system, while asteroids are mostly from within the orbit of Jupiter (~5 AU). The Rosetta spacecraft was launched in March 2005, began approaching the comet between January and May, 2014, and began mapping and characterizing the comet in August 2014.  The ESA’s scientists and engineers are determining the best area to send their robot. They plan to land on the surface of the comet by mid-November. To learn more about this exciting mission, visit this link: Rosetta

ESA Rosetta mission to comet.

ESA Rosetta mission to comet. Image courtesy of ESA.

Posted May 16, 2014

Status of Geoscience Workforce 2014 Report

A report about trends in geosciences research funding and career opportunities is published by the American Geosciences Institute every few years. The 2014 report shows an increase in students enrolled and graduating from geoscience programs at all levels of education. The report indicates that the percentage of bachelor’s and master’s graduates who have taken higher level math courses, such as Calculus II and III, needs improvement. Industry jobs that require training in geosciences are growing, but the number of geoscientist working for the federal government is decreasing for all government programs, except meteorology. The number of tenure-track faculty in geosciences has decreased. Interestingly, in this study, graduates making more than $90,000 are all working in the oil or gas industry. This is a great report with many informative figures (see example below), charts and tables. It is available for purchase at .

This figure shows the main career opportunities for bachelor's, master's and doctoral students in geosciences. (Figure 4.2 from the Status of Geosciences Workforce from the American Geosciences Institute.)

This figure shows the main career opportunities for bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral students in geosciences. (Figure 4.2 from the Status of Geosciences Workforce from the American Geosciences Institute.)


Posted April 03, 2014

ATLAS: Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System, which is organized by astronomers and engineers from the University of Hawaii,  will consist of two telescopes that will scan the sky every night. Their goal is to provide ample warning before a potential asteroid impact. Visit their website ( for more details. I am featured in one of the videos on their website. I discuss meteorites and the asteroid impact in Chelyabinsk, Russia. Click on the image to the right to check out the video!

Posted Jan. 30, 2014

High resolution image of a chondritic meteorite

Chondrules, chondrules, everywhere!

This is a high resolution image of a piece of chondritic meteorite (~1 inch in diameter) that was found in Antarctica. This chondrules has numerous chondules (dark circular inclusions). Chondrules consist of various minerals: olivine, pyroxene, plagioclase, sulfides, and Fe-Ni metal. Most cosmochemist agree that chondrules are dust particles that formed during the earliest period of the solar system. However, a growing number of researchers think that chondrules formed during collisions between molten planetary bodies. Although, the exact mechanisms by which these dust particles formed is still debated, chondrules give us a way to evaluate the formation and evolution of dust during the solar system’s formation. Click here to learn more about chondrites and chondrules.

I will take this meteorite and many others like it to the Australian Synchrotron in February to study the distribution of iron, nickel and other elements in chondrules (the circular inclusions in the meteorite). These measurements will provide clues to the metamorphic history of these chondrules, which will help me identify which chondrules are suitable for studying the 60Fe-60Ni system (this is the focus of my dissertation research). I will present some of this work at the next Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, TX.