Research in the Planetary Science Group
Cosmochemistry and the History of the Solar System
We seek to elucidate chemical and physical processes in the solar nebula through the study of meteorites. Experiments in high-temperature furnaces are designed to constrain the melting kinetics of meteoritic minerals. Sulfur and oxygen isotope ratios of minerals constrain element reservoirs in meteorite parent bodies including Mars. Observations of exosolar systems are used to shed light under formation conditions of our own.
Young Stars and their Proto-planetary Disks
A program to monitor fields in young clusters with a CCD attached to the Perkin telescope has been in place at Van Vleck Observatory since 1991. We concentrate on regions in or near the Orion Nebula cluster and in NGC 2264. Recently, these surveys have led to the discovery of a unique star, KH 15D, that appears to be surrounded by a clumpy circumstellar disk.
The interpretation of remotely sensed images is the foundation of planetary mapping and mineralogy and is a powerful tool for the examination of environmental change on the Earth. An EPA-funded project with UConn seeks to monitor the distribution and health of marshes around Long Island Sound using using Landsat, ASTER, Quickbird, and in situ spectroscopy. Similar techniques are used to evaluate the possibility of detecting stress in plants due to heavy metal contamination in western CT.
This work includes fundamental mapping of the planets, notably Venus and Mars. Current research focuses on the structural evolution of venusian highlands and basic stratigraphy of Venus, and the application of various data sets from assets at Mars to examine gully formation. Some of this work contributes to the NASA/PG&G Planetary Geology Mapping Program
This research in the laboratory and analogue field sites emphasizes the study of the habitat, energy pathways, and geochemical imprint of extremophiles with application to martian environments.
Planetary Mission Planning
How can we maximize data return from rovers at Mars? With colleagues at JPL, we are developing software to help rovers recognize minerals of geologic interest in vis/NIR spectra autonomously. Photogeologic mapping and crater counts were used to evaluate the potential MER landing sites and place them in geologic context. And, we're trying to get back to Venus.