Two earth and planetary sciences doctoral students will be furthering their study of the cosmos with help from NASA.
NASA Earth and Space Sciences Fellowships are awarded once a year “to ensure continued training of a highly qualified workforce in disciplines required to achieve NASA’s scientific goals.” The recipients, including UT’s Eric MacLennan, of Boston, Massachusetts, and Richard Cartwright, of Atlanta, Georgia, will each get $30,000 a year for three years.
MacLennan’s project is “Factors Influencing Asteroid Regolith: An Observational Investigation.” He’s analyzing the heat emitted by asteroid surfaces to determine properties of the surface. Fine-grained surfaces heat up quickly and cool down quickly, like sand at the beach. Blocky or solid surfaces take a while to heat up and cool down, like cement or bricks. By observing asteroids at different places in their orbits, MacLennan is able to determine which type of surface they have. Large asteroids appear to have very dusty surfaces, like the moon, but smaller asteroids appear to have a variety of surface types.
Cartwright’s project is titled “Dark Material on the Large Moons of Uranus: What Is It and Where Did It Come From?” He is using large ground-based telescopes to observe moons of the planet Uranus. The surfaces of these moons are composed largely of regular ice, but their darkness indicates there may be some other material on the surface. Cartwright’s hypothesis is that dust and possibly organic material from small moons much further out from Uranus have coated these surfaces. Voyager II captured images of these moons in 1986, but only saw the southern hemispheres. Cartwright is observing the northern hemispheres for the first time.
A third student—Mike Lucas, of Washington, DC—is working on the second year of a NASA fellowship he received last year. His project is “Building Blocks of the Terrestrial Planets: Mineralogy of Hungaria Asteroids.” He is using a large ground-based telescope to observe a particular group of objects to determine surface compositions. His hypothesis is that these bodies partially melted early in solar system history and that they represent the material out of which the Earth and other terrestrial planets were formed.
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Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, email@example.com)