Matching Items (44)

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Utilizing science and technology to enhance a future planetary mission: applications to Europa

Description

A thorough understanding of Europa's geology through the synergy of science and technology, by combining geologic mapping with autonomous onboard processing methods, enhances the science potential of future outer solar system missions. Mapping outlines the current state of knowledge of

A thorough understanding of Europa's geology through the synergy of science and technology, by combining geologic mapping with autonomous onboard processing methods, enhances the science potential of future outer solar system missions. Mapping outlines the current state of knowledge of Europa's surface and near sub-surface, indicates the prevalence of distinctive geologic features, and enables a uniform perspective of formation mechanisms responsible for generating those features. I have produced a global geologic map of Europa at 1:15 million scale and appraised formation scenarios with respect to conditions necessary to produce observed morphologies and variability of those conditions over Europa's visible geologic history. Mapping identifies areas of interest relevant for autonomous study; it serves as an index for change detection and classification and aids pre-encounter targeting. Therefore, determining the detectability of geophysical activity is essential. Activity is evident by the presence of volcanic plumes or outgassing, disrupted surface morphologies, or changes in morphology, color, temperature, or composition; these characteristics reflect important constraints on the interior dynamics and evolutions of planetary bodies. By adapting machine learning and data mining techniques to signatures of plumes, morphology, and spectra, I have successfully demonstrated autonomous rule-based response and detection, identification, and classification of known events and features on outer planetary bodies using the following methods: 1. Edge-detection, which identifies the planetary horizon and highlights features extending beyond the limb; 2. Spectral matching using a superpixel endmember detection algorithm that identifies mean spectral signatures; and 3. Scale invariant feature transforms combined with supervised classification, which examines brightness gradients throughout an image, highlights extreme gradient regions, and classifies those regions based on a manually selected library of features. I have demonstrated autonomous: detection of volcanic plumes or jets at Io, Enceladus, and several comets, correlation between spectral signatures and morphological appearances of Europa's individual tectonic features, detection of ≤94% of known transient events on multiple planetary bodies, and classification of similar geologic features. Applying these results to conditions expected for Europa enables a prediction of the potential for detection and recommendations for mission concepts to increase the science return and efficiency of future missions to observe Europa.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
2013

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The effect of Rayleigh-Taylor instabilities on the thickness of undifferentiated crust on Kuiper Belt objects like Charon

Description

In this thesis I model the thermal and structural evolution of Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) and explore their ability to retain undifferentiated crusts of rock and ice over geologic timescales. Previous calculations by Desch et al. (2009) predicted that initially

In this thesis I model the thermal and structural evolution of Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) and explore their ability to retain undifferentiated crusts of rock and ice over geologic timescales. Previous calculations by Desch et al. (2009) predicted that initially homogenous KBOs comparable in size to Charon (R ~ 600 km) have surfaces too cold to permit the separation of rock and ice, and should always retain thick (~ 85 km) crusts, despite the partial differentiation of rock and ice inside the body. The retention of a thermally insulating, undifferentiated crust is favorable to the maintenance of subsurface liquid and potentially cryovolcanism on the KBO surface. A potential objection to these models is that the dense crust of rock and ice overlying an ice mantle represents a gravitationally unstable configuration that should overturn by Rayleigh-Taylor (RT) instabilities. I have calculated the growth rate of RT instabilities at the ice-crust interface, including the effect of rock on the viscosity. I have identified a critical ice viscosity for the instability to grow significantly over the age of the solar system. I have calculated the viscosity as a function of temperature for conditions relevant to marginal instability. I find that RT instabilities on a Charon-sized KBO require temperatures T > 143 K. Including this effect in thermal evolution models of KBOs, I find that the undifferentiated crust on KBOs is thinner than previously calculated, only ~ 50 km. While thinner, this crustal thickness is still significant, representing ~ 25% of the KBO mass, and helps to maintain subsurface liquid throughout most of the KBO's history.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
2013

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Analysis of spacecraft data for the study of diverse lunar volcanism and regolith maturation rates

Description

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft missions provide new data for investigating the youngest impact craters on Mercury and the Moon, along with lunar volcanic end-members: ancient silicic and young basaltic volcanism.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft missions provide new data for investigating the youngest impact craters on Mercury and the Moon, along with lunar volcanic end-members: ancient silicic and young basaltic volcanism. The LRO Wide Angle Camera (WAC) and Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) in-flight absolute radiometric calibration used ground-based Robotic Lunar Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope data as standards. In-flight radiometric calibration is a small aspect of the entire calibration process but an important improvement upon the pre-flight measurements. Calibrated reflectance data are essential for comparing images from LRO to missions like MESSENGER, thus enabling science through engineering. Relative regolith optical maturation rates on Mercury and the Moon are estimated by comparing young impact crater densities and impact ejecta reflectance, thus empirically testing previous models of faster rates for Mercury relative to the Moon. Regolith maturation due to micrometeorite impacts and solar wind sputtering modies UV-VIS-NIR surface spectra, therefore understanding maturation rates is critical for interpreting remote sensing data from airless bodies. Results determined the regolith optical maturation rate on Mercury is 2 to 4 times faster than on the Moon. The Gruithuisen Domes, three lunar silicic volcanoes, represent relatively rare lunar lithologies possibly similar to rock fragments found in the Apollo sample collection. Lunar nonmare silicic volcanism has implications for lunar magmatic evolution. I estimated a rhyolitic composition using morphologic comparisons of the Gruithuisen Domes, measured from NAC 2-meter-per-pixel digital topographic models (DTMs), with terrestrial silicic dome morphologies and laboratory models of viscoplastic dome growth. Small, morphologically sharp irregular mare patches (IMPs) provide evidence for recent lunar volcanism widely distributed across the nearside lunar maria, which has implications for long-lived nearside magmatism. I identified 75 IMPs (100-5000 meters in dimension) in NAC images and DTMs, and determined stratigraphic relationships between units common to all IMPs. Crater counts give model ages from 18-58 Ma, and morphologic comparisons with young lunar features provided an additional age constraint of <100 Ma. The IMPs formed as low-volume basaltic eruptions significantly later than previous evidence of lunar mare basalt volcanism's end (1-1.2 Ga).

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Agent

Created

Date Created
2013

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The chemical composition of exoplanet-hosting binary star systems

Description

A significant portion of stars occur as binary systems, in which two stellar components orbit a common center of mass. As the number of known exoplanet systems continues to grow, some binary systems are now known to harbor planets around

A significant portion of stars occur as binary systems, in which two stellar components orbit a common center of mass. As the number of known exoplanet systems continues to grow, some binary systems are now known to harbor planets around one or both stellar components. As a first look into composition of these planetary systems, I investigate the chemical compositions of 4 binary star systems, each of which is known to contain at least one planet. Stars are known to vary significantly in their composition, and their overall metallicity (represented by iron abundance, [Fe/H]) has been shown to correlate with the likelihood of hosting a planetary system. Furthermore, the detailed chemical composition of a system can give insight into the possible properties of the system's known exoplanets. Using high-resolution spectra, I quantify the abundances of up to 28 elements in each stellar component of the binary systems 16 Cyg, 83 Leo, HD 109749, and HD 195019. A direct comparison is made between each star and its binary companion to give a differential composition for each system. For each star, a comparison of elemental abundance vs. condensation temperature is made, which may be a good diagnostic of refractory-rich terrestrial planets in a system. The elemental ratios C/O and Mg/Si, crucial in determining the atmospheric composition and mineralogy of planets, are calculated and discussed for each star. Finally, the compositions and diagnostics of each binary system are discussed in terms of the known planetary and stellar parameters for each system.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
2013

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Impact-related processes on Mercury and the Moon

Description

Impact craters are ubiquitous throughout the Solar System, formed by one of the principal processes responsible for surface modification of terrestrial planets and solid bodies (i.e., asteroids, icy moons). The impact cratering process is well studied, particularly on the Moon

Impact craters are ubiquitous throughout the Solar System, formed by one of the principal processes responsible for surface modification of terrestrial planets and solid bodies (i.e., asteroids, icy moons). The impact cratering process is well studied, particularly on the Moon and Mercury, where the results remain uncomplicated by atmospheric effects, plate tectonics, or interactions with water and ices. Crater measurements, used to determine relative and absolute ages for geologic units by relating the cumulative crater frequency per unit area to radiometrically-determined ages from returned samples, are sensitive to the solar incidence angle of images used for counts. Earlier work is quantitatively improved by investigating this important effect and showing that absolute model ages are most accurately determined using images with incidence angles between 65° and 80°, and equilibrium crater diameter estimates are most accurate at ~80° incidence angle. A statistical method is developed using crater size-frequencies to distinguish lunar mare age units in the absence of spectral differences. Applied to the Moon, the resulting areal crater densities confidently identify expansive units with >300–500 my age differences, distinguish non-obvious secondaries, and determine that an area >1×104 km2 provides statistically robust crater measurements. This areal crater density method is also applied to the spectrally-homogeneous volcanic northern smooth plains (NSP) on Mercury. Although crater counts and observations of embayed craters indicate that the NSP experienced at least two resurfacing episodes, no observable age units are observed using areal crater density measurements, so smooth plains emplacement occurred over a relatively short timescale (<500 my). For the first time, the distribution of impact melt on Mercury and the Moon are compared at high resolution. Mercurian craters with diameters ≥30 km have a greater areal extent of interior melt deposits than similarly sized lunar craters, a result consistent with melt-generation model predictions. The effects of shaking on compositional sorting within a granular regolith are experimentally tested, demonstrating the possibility of mechanical segregation of particles in the lunar regolith. These results provide at least one explanation toward understanding the inconsistencies between lunar remote sensing datasets and are important for future spacecraft sample return missions.

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Agent

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Date Created
2013

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Investigating Late Amazonian Volcanotectonic Activity on Olympus Mons, Mars Using Flank Vents and Arcuate Graben

Description

Olympus Mons is the largest volcano on Mars. Previous studies have focused on large scale features on Olympus Mons, such as the basal escarpment, summit caldera complex and aureole deposits. My objective was to identify and characterize previously

Olympus Mons is the largest volcano on Mars. Previous studies have focused on large scale features on Olympus Mons, such as the basal escarpment, summit caldera complex and aureole deposits. My objective was to identify and characterize previously unrecognized and unmapped small scale features to understand the volcanotectonic evolution of this enormous volcano. For this study I investigated flank vents and arcuate graben. Flank vents are a common feature on composite volcanoes on Earth. They provide information on the volatile content of magmas, the propagation of magma in the subsurface and the tectonic stresses acting on the volcano. Graben are found at a variety of scales in close proximity to Martian volcanoes. They can indicate flexure of the lithosphere in response to the load of the volcano or gravitation spreading of the edifice. Using Context Camera (CTX), High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), High Resolution Stereo Camera Digital Terrain Model (HRSC DTM) and Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) data, I have identified and characterized the morphology and distribution of 60 flank vents and 84 arcuate graben on Olympus Mons. Based on the observed vent morphologies, I conclude that effusive eruptions have dominated on Olympus Mons in the Late Amazonian, with flank vents playing a limited role. The spatial distribution of flank vents suggests shallow source depths and radial dike propagation. Arcuate graben, not previously observed in lower resolution datasets, occur on the lower flanks of Olympus Mons and indicate a recent extensional state of stress. Based on spatial and superposition relationships, I have constructed a developmental sequence for the construction of Olympus Mons: 1) Construction of the shield via effusive lava flows.; 2) Formation of the near summit thrust faults (flank terraces); 3) Flank failure leading to scarp formation and aureole deposition; 4) Late Amazonian effusive resurfacing and formation of flank vents; 5) Subsidence of the caldera, waning volcanism and graben formation. This volcanotectonic evolution closely resembles that proposed on Ascraeus Mons. Extensional tectonism may continue to affect the lower flanks of Olympus Mons today.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
2015

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Hydrothermal habitats: measurements of bulk microbial elemental composition, and models of hydrothermal influences on the evolution of dwarf planets

Description

Finding habitable worlds is a key driver of solar system exploration. Many solar

system missions seek environments providing liquid water, energy, and nutrients, the three ingredients necessary to sustain life.

Such environments include hydrothermal systems, spatially-confined systems where hot aqueous fluid circulates

Finding habitable worlds is a key driver of solar system exploration. Many solar

system missions seek environments providing liquid water, energy, and nutrients, the three ingredients necessary to sustain life.

Such environments include hydrothermal systems, spatially-confined systems where hot aqueous fluid circulates through rock by convection. I sought to characterize hydrothermal microbial communities, collected in hot spring sediments and mats at Yellowstone National Park, USA, by measuring their bulk elemental composition. To do so, one must minimize the contribution of non-biological material to the samples analyzed. I demonstrate that this can be achieved using a separation method that takes advantage of the density contrast between cells and sediment and preserves cellular elemental contents. Using this method, I show that in spite of the tremendous physical, chemical, and taxonomic diversity of Yellowstone hot springs, the composition of microorganisms there is surprisingly ordinary. This suggests the existence of a stoichiometric envelope common to all life as we know it. Thus, future planetary investigations could use elemental fingerprints to assess the astrobiological potential of hydrothermal settings beyond Earth.

Indeed, hydrothermal activity may be widespread in the solar system. Most solar system worlds larger than 200 km in radius are dwarf planets, likely composed of an icy, cometary mantle surrounding a rocky, chondritic core. I enhance a dwarf planet evolution code, including the effects of core fracturing and hydrothermal circulation, to demonstrate that dwarf planets likely have undergone extensive water-rock interaction. This supports observations of aqueous products on their surfaces. I simulate the alteration of chondritic rock by pure water or cometary fluid to show that aqueous alteration feeds back on geophysical evolution: it modifies the fluid antifreeze content, affecting its persistence over geological timescales; and the distribution of radionuclides, whose decay is a chief heat source on dwarf planets. Interaction products can be observed if transported to the surface. I simulate numerically how cryovolcanic transport is enabled by primordial and hydrothermal volatile exsolution. Cryovolcanism seems plausible on dwarf planets in light of images recently returned by spacecrafts. Thus, these coupled geophysical-geochemical models provide a comprehensive picture of dwarf planet evolution, processes, and habitability.

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Date Created
2015

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Ponds, flows, and ejecta of impact cratering and volcanism: a remote sensing perspective of a dynamic Moon

Description

Both volcanism and impact cratering produce ejecta and associated deposits incorporating a molten rock component. While the heat sources are different (exogenous vs. endogenous), the end results are landforms with similar morphologies including ponds and flows of impact melt and

Both volcanism and impact cratering produce ejecta and associated deposits incorporating a molten rock component. While the heat sources are different (exogenous vs. endogenous), the end results are landforms with similar morphologies including ponds and flows of impact melt and lava around the central crater. Ejecta from both impact and volcanic craters can also include a high percentage of melted rock. Using Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera Narrow Angle Camera (LROC NAC) images, crucial details of these landforms are finally revealed, suggesting a much more dynamic Moon than is generally appreciated. Impact melt ponds and flows at craters as small as several hundred meters in diameter provide empirical evidence of abundant melting during the impact cratering process (much more than was previously thought), and this melt is mobile on the lunar surface for a significant time before solidifying. Enhanced melt deposit occurrences in the lunar highlands (compared to the mare) suggest that porosity, target composition, and pre-existing topography influence melt production and distribution. Comparatively deep impact craters formed in young melt deposits connote a relatively rapid evolution of materials on the lunar surface. On the other end of the spectrum, volcanic eruptions have produced the vast, plains-style mare basalts. However, little was previously known about the details of small-area eruptions and proximal volcanic deposits due to a lack of resolution. High-resolution images reveal key insights into small volcanic cones (0.5-3 km in diameter) that resemble terrestrial cinder cones. The cones comprise inter-layered materials, spatter deposits, and lava flow breaches. The widespread occurrence of the cones in most nearside mare suggests that basaltic eruptions occur from multiple sources in each basin and/or that rootless eruptions are relatively common. Morphologies of small-area volcanic deposits indicate diversity in eruption behavior of lunar basaltic eruptions driven by magmatic volatiles. Finally, models of polar volatile behavior during impact-heating suggest that chemical alteration of minerals in the presence of liquid water is one possible outcome that was previously not thought possible on the Moon.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
2016

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Theoretical and experimental studies of cryogenic and hydrothermal organic geochemistry

Description

This dissertation examines two topics of emerging interest in the field of organic geochemistry. The topic of the first portion of the dissertation is cold organic geochemistry on Saturn's moon Titan. Titan has an atmosphere and surface that are rich

This dissertation examines two topics of emerging interest in the field of organic geochemistry. The topic of the first portion of the dissertation is cold organic geochemistry on Saturn's moon Titan. Titan has an atmosphere and surface that are rich in organic compounds. Liquid hydrocarbons exist on the surface, most famously as lakes. Photochemical reactions produce solid organics in Titan's atmosphere, and these materials settle onto the surface. At the surface, liquids can interact with solids, and geochemical processes can occur. To better understand these processes, I developed a thermodynamic model that can be used to calculate the solubilities of gases and solids in liquid hydrocarbons at cryogenic temperatures. The model was parameterized using experimental data, and provides a good fit to the data. Application of the model to Titan reveals that the equilibrium composition of surface liquids depends on the abundance of methane in the local atmosphere. The model also indicates that solid acetylene should be quite soluble in surface liquids, which implies that acetylene-rich rocks should be susceptible to chemical erosion, and acetylene evaporites may form on Titan. In the latter half of this dissertation, I focus on hot organic geochemistry below the surface of the Earth. Organic compounds are common in sediments. Burial of sediments leads to changes in physical and chemical conditions, promoting organic reactions. An important organic reaction in subsurface environments is decarboxylation, which generates hydrocarbons and carbon dioxide from simple organic acids. Fundamental knowledge about decarboxylation is required to better understand how the organic and inorganic compositions of sediments evolve in response to changing geochemical conditions. I performed experiments with the model compound phenylacetic acid to obtain information about mechanisms of decarboxylation in hydrothermal fluids. Patterns in rates of decarboxylation of substituted phenylacetic acids point to a mechanism that proceeds through a ring-protonated zwitterion of phenylacetic acid. In contrast, substituted sodium phenylacetates exhibit a different kinetic pattern, one that is consistent with the formation of the benzyl anion as an intermediate. Results from experiments with added hydrochloric acid or sodium hydroxide, and deuterated water agree with these interpretations. Thus, speciation dictates mechanism of decarboxylation.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
2012

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Trans-Neptunian and exosolar satellites and dust: dynamics and surface effects

Description

Solar system orbital dynamics can offer unique challenges. Impacts of interplanetary dust particles can significantly alter the surfaces of icy satellites and minor planets. Impact heating from these particles can anneal away radiation damage to the crystalline structure of surface

Solar system orbital dynamics can offer unique challenges. Impacts of interplanetary dust particles can significantly alter the surfaces of icy satellites and minor planets. Impact heating from these particles can anneal away radiation damage to the crystalline structure of surface water ice. This effect is enhanced by gravitational focusing for giant planet satellites. In addition, impacts of interplanetary dust particles on the small satellites of the Pluto system can eject into the system significant amounts of secondary intra-satellite dust. This dust is primarily swept up by Pluto and Charon, and could explain the observed albedo features on Pluto's surface. In addition to Pluto, a large fraction of trans-neptunian objects (TNOs) are binary or multiple systems. The mutual orbits of these TNO binaries can range from very wide (periods of several years) to near-contact systems (less than a day period). No single formation mechanism can explain this distribution. However, if the systems generally formed wide, a combination of solar and body tides (commonly called Kozai Cycles-Tidal Friction, KCTF) can cause most systems to tighten sufficiently to explain the observed distributions. This KCTF process can also be used to describe the orbital evolution of a terrestrial-class exoplanet after being captured as a satellite of a habitable-zone giant exoplanet. The resulting exomoon would be both potentially habitable and potenially detectable in the full Kepler data set.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
2013