News and Updates

11/28/2011

 With its detailed maps and stunning color photographs, Antarctic veteran Ed Stump’s new book “The Roof at the Bottom of the World” shows the Transantarctic range in all its icy glory

 

Not many people get the chance to visit Antarctica, but those who do experience something they will never forget. It was the same for Professor Ed Stump. By the time he returned from his first visit to “the Ice”, as Antarcticans like to say, he was obsessed with going back. And he did make it back – multiple times. That first visit to the pristine icy wilderness in 1970 precipitated a 40-year love affair, and led to the publication of a beautifully illustrated history and atlas of exploration titled, The Roof at the Bottom of the World that draws upon his 13 field seasons of experience.

Stump had grown up in rural, central Pennsylvania surrounded by the Appalachians. His love for mountains was one of the main reasons that he had chosen to pursue a career in geology. After finishing graduate school at Yale in the spring of 1970, he told his mentor that he wanted “to get as far away as possible” and the response he received was, “Why don’t you try Antarctica?”

Stump knew of Antarctica’s Transantarctic Mountains, but they were so obscure that he had never considered them as a research option. The Transantarctic Mountains are the most remote mountain belt on Earth, an alien world of ice and rock rising to majestic heights in excess of 14,000 feet and extending for 1,500 miles across the continent.

Stump had the good fortune of being selected to join a field party from Ohio State University in the Queen Maud Mountains. He was chosen to study the structure and stratigraphy of one of the major rock groups in the region, an opportunity that set him on the course he has followed throughout his career – conducting geological research funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the most distant and unexplored mountain belt on Earth.

Since 1976 Stump has taught geology at ASU. Over the past 40 years, he has led a series of geological research projects funded by NSF, covering more than 1,200 miles of the Transantarctic Mountains. No other person on Earth has a more complete photographic record of the entire breadth of this region. He has twice served as Chief Scientist for large, remote, helicopter-supported camps. Other research includes NSF-funded studies in southern Arizona, the Alaska Range, and the Himalaya. He has written more than 70 scientific articles, and authored three books including Geology of Arizona, The Ross Orogen of the Transantarctic Mountains, and most recently The Roof at the Bottom of the World, published by Yale University Press.

For many years Stump has wanted to share the beauty of Antarctica’s remote and glorious mountains at the end of the Earth. The Roof at the Bottom of the World was his chosen medium to let the secret out about this wondrous mountain range that been the focus of his geological research and exploration for the 40 years.

The narrative follows the story lines of the famous polar explorers – Ross, Scott, Shackleton, Amundsen, Byrd – who each in their turn, discovered and explored portions of the Transantarctic Mountains. The book is illustrated with more than 100 of Stump’s photographs of the mountains, along with more than 30 historical maps, shaded-relief topographic maps, and satellite images, showing the routes taken by the early explorers and the terrain that they discovered. It is the first atlas of the most remote mountain range on Earth.


Read Ed Stump’s recent article in The Atlantic
WHAT IT’S LIKE TO CLIMB THE MOUNTAINS OF ANTARCTICA (Nov. 17) http://bit.ly/u17uH7


HIGHLIGHTS FROM ED STUMP'S BLOG

http://www.transantarcticmountains.com/

On his website, Stump vividly recounts what it has been like to explore the Transantarctic Mountains over the past 40 years. Via blog entries that read like poetry and photographs that capture the pristine wilderness of ice and rock, he brings to life his experiences in the most remote mountain belt on Earth.


HYGIENE IN THE FIELD – August 14, 2011

Deep field Antarctic research requires that explorers go weeks without obvious creature comforts. In this post, Stump discusses hygiene in remote field camps – how dishes are washed without soap and showers are ... nonexistent.


MCMURDO STATION – August 28, 2011

In 1957 the US chose Winter Quarters Bay as the location of its main center of operations, naming it McMurdo Station. Stump first visited the outpost in 1970. He provides two views of McMurdo Station that were shot in January 1983 and January 2011 that show differences that have occurred over the years.


THE SILENCE – September 5, 2011

The Antarctic silence is mentioned by many of those who have travelled to the deep field, including Stump, who recalls: “Standing there, I suddenly became aware of the silence. It was behind me just at my shoulder. It went beyond the icefall as far as I could see. It was out there everywhere.”

ADÉLIE PENGUINS – October 2, 2011
The thing most people know about Antarctica is that penguins live there. Twenty miles north of McMurdo station is the southernmost adélie penguin rookery on Earth. In this post Stump shares his favorite penguin shots.


(Nikki Cassis)

 

11/21/2011

The November issue of the SESE Source is now available. Stories touch on the various research areas of SESE, including Prof. Ed Stump's research in Antarctica, Prof. Mark Robinson's work with NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, Prof. Jack Farmer's fossil-finding field trips and much more!

 

Read the November issue

View past issues of the SESE Source

11/16/2011

The Arizona State University team that oversees the imaging system on board NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has released the highest resolution near-global topographic map of the Moon ever created. This new topographic map shows the surface shape and features over nearly the entire Moon with a pixel scale close to 100 meters (328 feet). A single measure of elevation (one pixel) is about the size of two football fields placed side-by-side. At this scale explorers can accurately investigate kilometer-scale and larger craters, volcanoes, and mountains.

Although the Moon is our closest neighbor, knowledge of its morphology is still limited. Due to instrumental limitations of previous missions, a global map of the Moon’s topography at high resolution has not existed until now. With the LRO Wide Angle Camera (WAC) stereo imaging and the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) scientists can now accurately portray the shape of the entire Moon at high resolution.

“Our new topographic view of the Moon provides the dataset that lunar scientists have waited for since the Apollo era,” says Mark Robinson, Principal Investigator of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC). “We can now determine slopes of all major geologic terrains on the Moon at 100 meter scale. Determine how the crust has deformed, better understand impact crater mechanics, investigate the nature of volcanic features, and better plan future robotic and human missions to the Moon.”

Called the Global Lunar DTM 100 m topographic model (GLD100), this map was created based on data acquired by LRO’s WAC, which is part of the LROC imaging system. The LROC imaging system consists of two Narrow Angle Cameras (NACs) to provide high-resolution images, and the WAC to provide 100-meter resolution images in seven color bands over a 57-kilometer (35-mile) swath.

The WAC is a relatively small instrument, easily fitting into the palm of one’s hand; however, despite its diminutive size it maps nearly the entire Moon every month. Each month the Moon's lighting has changed so the WAC is continuously building up a record of how different rocks reflect light under different conditions, and adding to the LROC library of stereo observations.

The LROC (WAC) has a pixel scale of about 75 meters (246 feet), and at the average altitude of 50 km (31 miles) a WAC image swath is 70 km (43 miles) wide across the ground-track. Since the equatorial distance between orbits is about 30 km (18 miles) there is complete overlap all the way around the Moon in one month. The orbit-to-orbit WAC overlap provides a strong stereo effect. Using digital photogrammetric techniques, a terrain model can be computed from the stereo overlap.

The near-global topographic map was constructed from 69,000 WAC stereo models and covers the latitude range 79°S to 79°N, 98.2% of the entire lunar surface. Due to persistent shadows near the poles it is not possible to create a complete stereo based map at the highest latitudes. However, another instrument onboard LRO called LOLA excels at mapping topography at the poles. Since LOLA ranges to the surface with its own lasers, and the LRO orbits converge at the poles, a very high resolution topographic model is possible, and can be used to fill in the WAC “hole at the pole.” The WAC topography was produced by LROC team members at the German Aerospace Center.

“Collecting the data and creating the new topographic map was a huge collaborative effort between the LRO project, the LOLA team, the LROC team at ASU and in Germany at the DLR,” says Robinson. “I could not be more pleased with the quality of the map – it’s phenomenal! The richness of detail should inspire lunar geologists around the world for years to come.”

Shaded relief images can be created from the GLD100 by illuminating the “surface” (in this case the shape model) from a given Sun direction and elevation above the horizon. To convey an absolute sense of height the resulting grayscale pixels are painted with colors that represent the altitude. Visualizations like these allow scientists to view the surface from very different perspectives, providing a powerful tool for interpreting the geologic processes that have shaped the Moon.

Future versions
The current model incorporates the first year of stereo imaging; there is another year of data that can be added to the solution. These additional stereo images will not only improve the sharpness (resolution) of the model but also fill in very small gaps that exist in the current map. Also the LROC team has made small improvements to the camera distortion model and the LOLA team has improved our knowledge of the spacecraft position over time. These next generation steps will further improve the accuracy of the next version of the LROC GLD100 topographic model of the Moon.

Read more: http://lroc.sese.asu.edu/news/?archives/484-Lunar-Topography--As-Never-Seen-Before!.html
 

Caption: LROC WAC color shaded relief of the lunar farside (NASA/GSFC/DLR/Arizona State University).

 

Nicole Cassis

11/03/2011

School of Earth and Space Exploration invites public to day of hands-on fun

The public is invited to spend a day exploring Earth and space with ASU scientists from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 5, in the Bateman Physical Science F-Wing (map), at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus. The day-long event is designed to energize and excite the more than 1,000 kids, parents, educators, and other community members that are touched by the activities.

Earth and Space Exploration Day provides a variety of science-related interactive activities for children age five and up and anyone interested in exploring Earth and space alongside real scientists.

For 14 years faculty and students in the School of Earth and Space Exploration in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences have sponsored the event and used it as a means of connecting the community with science.

“This event is always an eye-opening experience for kids from Maricopa County, where world-renowned professors and researchers come out to show families that science and scientists are fun,” says Professor Thomas Sharp, coordinator for the annual event. “We aim to create highly memorable, exciting and interactive experiences for children and their families, and give them the opportunity to learn how recent discoveries and research impact our daily lives.”

Students from all backgrounds can participate in hands-on activities, meet real scientists and engineers, and ask questions about a field some may not have known previously existed.

Together families can experience a variety of activities including digging for meteorites and creating impact craters, manipulating robotic arms and driving remote controlled underwater robots, mining for gold, and learning the science of rockets by making a soda straw rocket, to name a few. For a complete listing of activities, visit: http://sese.asu.edu/earth-and-space-exploration-day.

In addition to the tabletop activities and interactive demonstrations, there will be lab tours, lectures, and a special unveiling is scheduled for 11 a.m. that visitors will certainly want to attend. Lectures are scheduled at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., and 1 p.m. on topics ranging from NASA’s planetary missions to volcanic eruptions.

Space lovers can visit the Planetarium or look through the telescopes at solar spots. In ASU’s Space Photography Laboratory, visitors can view the latest NASA planetary images and tour Mars using the GeoWall 3-D projector.

Meteorite enthusiasts can examine meteorite specimens on display from ASU’s Center for Meteorite Studies and ask staff to inspect potential meteorite specimens in person.

Rock hounds can bring a rock specimen for ‘Dr. Rock’ to analyze and identify, or take part in a family-friendly geology field trip to “A” Mountain (Hayden Butte) to learn about the sedimentary rocks, volcanic rocks and geological structures exposed in Tempe. The ASU GeoClub will also be selling mineral and rock samples, along with snacks.

“Kids (and adults, alike) are sure to find the activities enjoyable, exciting and educational,” says Sharp. “This event is just part of what the School of Earth and Space Exploration is doing to make sure that students in the Valley of the Sun are excited by the science all around them. We hope this event will inspire everyone to become more involved in science.”

For more information, contact the School of Earth and Space Exploration at (480) 965-5081.

View photos from past Earth and Space Exploration Day events

 

(Nikki Cassis)

11/01/2011

A lunar sample from a rock that once sat on the surface of the Moon will be on public display at Arizona State University beginning Saturday, Nov. 5.

The golf ball-sized Moon rock, on a long-term loan to ASU from NASA, will be on display in the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Visitor Gallery located in the Interdisciplinary A building on the ASU’s Tempe campus.

Weighing 77 grams, or about 2.7 ounces, the lunar sample comes from a larger Moon rock that was collected by Apollo 15 astronauts. The parent sample, from which the ASU rock was cut, weighed 9.6 kilograms, or about 21 pounds, and was the largest of the rocks collected during the Apollo 15 geologic traverses.

Informally named after its collector, Apollo 15 astronaut Dave Scott, the “Great Scott” rock was picked up about 13 yards (12 meters) north of the rim of Hadley Rille on August 2, 1971. It is part of the 842 pounds (382 kilograms) of lunar samples collected during six Apollo missions (1969 to 1972), and one of the most intensively studied samples.

Brownish-gray in color, sample 15555 is classified as medium-grained olivine basalt. Basalt is one of the most common types of rocks found on Earth, and is also one of the main lunar rock types. This rock crystallized from magma erupted from the mantle almost 3.3 billion years ago, and is predominantly composed of silicate minerals.

“Documented samples from the Moon, or any asteroids and planets, are the key to unlocking how planets form and evolve. The Moon is especially interesting because it preserves a record of the early solar system that you simply can’t find on Earth, since plate tectonics and fluvial erosion have mostly erased Earth’s early geologic history. Most lunar rocks are older than the oldest Earth rocks found to date. Thus the Moon can help scientists go back into the early stages of planet formation,” says Mark Robinson, professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “However, it is fascinating to remember that it appears that some of the areas Apollo astronauts did not sample are relatively young, perhaps as young as 500 million years. What will we learn from these younger lunar rocks? A fascinating question left to the next generation of lunar explorers.”

The ASU Moon rock is encased in a triangular NASA-prepared airtight glass case that is filled with inert gas to protect the sample from the terrestrial environment. It resides in a protective alcove encapsulated in a specially designed display secured by multiple levels of security. The display's creator, Chris Skiba, a research professional in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, was asked to design a display worthy of showcasing a priceless national treasure. Skiba stated that he had seen many lunar sample displays and wanted to “kick it up a notch” so the public could experience the sample in 360 degrees.

The Moon rocks sits on top of a quartz plate, attached to a polished stainless steel stage that rotates, displaying all sides of the Moon rock. According to Skiba, this might be the only Apollo 15 lunar sample for public viewing that rotates.

“It is almost like you are holding it yourself and experiencing all sides of the Moon rock,” says Skiba.

Skiba utilized the effects of the quartz and how it can transmit light. The quartz plate is illuminated by a blue LED that creates a stunning blue ring of light around the sample.

Keeping with ASU’s sustainability focus, Skiba repurposed a discarded 12-inch diameter telescope support stand to serve as the display’s base. Energy-friendly LED lights were selected as the light source utilizing motion sensing technology to activate the display.

A fitting home
Several Apollo lunar samples are on long-term loan for public displays around the world. Display samples are historically allocated to major museums with relevant content, or places with a current or historical connection to lunar exploration. ASU has direct connections to both historic and current lunar missions.

ASU’s involvement with space exploration began in the 1970s with professors and researchers playing active science support roles on many missions. Today, ASU plays a significant role in six current NASA missions and one European Space Administration (ESA) mission: Mars Odyssey, Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars Express Orbiter (ESA), Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Dawn, MESSENGER and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Key goals of the LRO mission are to collect comprehensive data sets on fifty scientifically intriguing sites, identification of lunar resources, studies of how the lunar radiation environment will affect humans, and answering fundamental lunar science questions. Robinson is the principal investigator of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) on board NASA’s LRO spacecraft.

Sample unveiling
The Moon rock will be unveiled at the School of Earth and Space Exploration’s annual Earth and Space Exploration Day on Saturday, Nov. 5. To celebrate the rock’s arrival, a special presentation will be held in Physical Sciences F-wing room 166 at 11 a.m. It will be followed by a light reception in the courtyard beside the Interdisciplinary A building that is home to the LROC Science Operations Center (SOC).

Visitors can view the Moon rock in the LROC Visitor Gallery, which also features “The Lunar History Walk” hallway exhibit and additional interpretive exhibits in the Science Operations Center (SOC). The SOC handles the planning, targeting and data processing activities associated with the LRO camera, and is designed so that guests can observe the scientists at work behind a glass wall. The gallery is open to the general public 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday (excluding holidays).

 

Caption: This piece of Moon rock, now on display at ASU, was cut from the ‘Great Scott’ rock that Apollo 15 astronaut Dave Scott collected from the Moon’s surface in August 1971. The rock is made of olivine basalt and was part of an ancient lava flow, formed billions of years earlier.
Photo by: Tom Story

 

(Nikki Cassis)
 

11/01/2011

“You can’t go home again,” wrote Thomas Wolfe, but Thomas Sharp, a professor at ASU, feels differently.

As the director of ASU’s LeRoy Eyring Center for Solid State Science, Sharp now leads the facility that played an integral role in his graduate education and his continuing research as an ASU professor. His top priority is to preserve the world class environment for advanced materials research and training that has defined the LeRoy Eyring Center for four decades.

“I intend to keep the center strong by maintaining cutting edge facilities and techniques for the characterization of solids. It’s crucial to preserve the strong research profile of the center around the world and within ASU,” said Sharp, who became director in July.

Formed in 1974, the center houses one of the country’s most comprehensive collections of high-end tools for the characterization of solid materials. It supports materials research activities across a broad range of disciplines, including solid-state physics and chemistry; Earth and planetary science; materials science and engineering; life sciences; electrical engineering.

In subscribing to ASU’s mission of “Quality and Access to All,” the center’s instruments and expertise are made available to researchers not just within ASU but across an expanding industrial community, ranging from local startups to Fortune 50 multinationals whose names are synonymous with innovation and quality.

Sharp arrived at ASU in 1983 as a graduate student with a focus on mineralogy and petrology, with a strong interest in mineral reactions in rocks. He received a master’s degree in geology in 1983 and a doctoral degree in geology in 1990 from ASU. He joined the ASU faculty as an assistant professor in 1997 and is now a full professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and ASU Associate Director of NASA’s Arizona Space Grant Consortium.

“As a mineralogist, I’m intensely interested in the reactions, transitions and deformation of minerals that occur deep in the Earth, on planetary surfaces and in shocked meteorites,” Sharp said. “We’re applying what we’ve learned to understanding the dynamics of Earth’s mantle, collisions in the asteroid belt and chemical weathering on the surface of Mars.”

Closer to home, Sharp directs the NASA Space Grant Program at ASU. Space Grant provides undergraduate internships and graduate fellowships for ASU students to participate in NASA related research and outreach.

Sharp does much of his research through the careful analysis of rocks and minerals using an array of electron microscopes and other instruments contained in the LeRoy Eyring Center.

“Having sophisticated tools and analytical techniques available with open access and hands-on training was a huge asset to my career and my research at ASU. This has also been the case for many researchers around the world, in academia and in industry, who have worked in solid state science at ASU,” said Sharp.

Following his postdoctoral research at ASU, Sharp had an opportunity to establish a transmission electron microscopy lab in Germany, and joined the Bavarian Research Institute of Experimental Geochemistry and Geophysics. Sharp credits this opportunity to the training he received at ASU and the international reputation for excellence in microscopy enjoyed by ASU and the LeRoy Eyring Center.

“Unlike most other laboratory environments, the center has been committed to sharing our expertise with researchers, and it’s been doing this for 38 years,” Sharp said. “As a result, we’ve become a de facto training center for generations of scientists – and this capability is recognized in research environments around the world. ASU’s reputation in electron microscopy was a key factor in my being hired to establish a lab at the Bavarian Geoinstitute.”

This legacy of excellence led the LeRoy Eyring Center to acquire two aberration corrected electron microscopes for what is expect to become cutting-edge research at the atomic scale. These world class instruments will be housed in a custom-designed building that is considered among the world’s “quietest” environments for electron microscopy.

When Sharp is not directing the LeRoy Eyring Center or his research program, he can often be found interacting with the natural environment that has formed the basis of interest in geology. One of his favorite courses to teach is Field Geology II, an upper division course for geology undergraduates in the School of Earth and Space Exploration in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“Observing, recording and interpreting complex geology in the field is a very challenging and rewarding activity that requires great focus. I get a similar sense of exploration when I examine a mineral sample at the atomic scale in a transmission electron microscope,” Sharp said.

“These activities are great,” Sharp confessed, “but nothing beats the pure enjoyment of hiking, mountain biking and camping with my family.”

 

Credit: Thomas Sharp, the director of the LeRoy Eyring Center for Solid State Science, is shown with the Philips CM200 high resolution Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope, which is used for imaging and spectroscopy. The microscope is one of the world class instruments in the John M Cowley Center for High Resolution Electron Microscopy in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Photo by: Tom Story/Arizona State University

 

Jeff Luth, jeff.luth@asu.edu
LeRoy Eying Center for Solid State Science

10/28/2011

Ronald Greeley, a Regents’ Professor of Planetary Geology at Arizona State University who has been involved in lunar and planetary studies since 1967 and has contributed significantly to our understanding of planetary bodies within our solar system, died Oct. 27, in Tempe. He was 72.

As the son of a military serviceman, Greeley moved around a great deal as child. As a result he saw many different geological landforms and it was no surprise that when he went to college, he majored in geology. Greeley earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Mississippi State University. After receiving his doctorate in 1966 at the University of Missouri in Rolla he worked for Standard Oil Company of California as a paleontologist.

Through military duty, he was assigned to NASA’s Ames Research Center in 1967 where he worked in a civilian capacity in preparation for the Apollo missions to the Moon. He stayed on at NASA to conduct research in planetary geology.

“I had been on sabbatical at NASA Ames Research Center working on the analysis of lunar samples, and I saw Ron and I saw potential,” recalls Carleton Moore, founding director of ASU’s Center for Meteorite Studies. “When I got the opportunity, I hired him.”

Greeley began teaching at ASU in 1977 with a joint professorship in the department of geology and the Center for Meteorite Studies. He studied wind processes on Earth and other planets and conducted photogeological mapping of planets and satellites among other research projects. In 1986, Greeley left the Center for Meteorite Studies to serve as chair of the department of geology.

“It was exciting to have him here; he was a major step in advancing space at ASU. He was the first one that came that did missions and experiments on planetary bodies,” says Moore. “He was really the first person to reach out to the other planets. And then he hired Phil Christensen.”

“Ron Greeley was indisputably one of the founders of planetary science, and the influence he has had, both through his own work and through the students and colleagues that he guided and mentored, touches virtually all aspects of this field,” says Christensen, a Regents’ Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“Ron played a major role in my career,” says Christensen. “I came to ASU specifically to work with Ron after receiving my graduate degree, and I have remained at ASU for 30 years largely because of the remarkable environment that Ron created here to foster planetary science as an extension of geology.”

Greeley, a pioneer in the planetary geology field, served as the director of the NASA-ASU Regional Planetary Image Facility and principal investigator of the Planetary Aeolian Laboratory at NASA-Ames Research Center. He served on and chaired many NASA and National Academy of Science panels and he was involved in nearly every major space probe mission flown in the solar system since the Apollo Moon landing. Mission projects included the Galileo mission to Jupiter, Magellan mission to Venus and Shuttle Imaging Radar orbiter around Earth. He was also part of the data analysis program for the Voyager 2 mission to Uranus and Neptune. His projects focused on the moons of these distant bodies. Passionate about Mars exploration, he has been involved with several missions to the Red Planet, including Mariner (6, 7, 9), Viking, Mars Pathfinder, Mars Global Surveyor and the Mars Exploration Rovers. He is a co-investigator for the camera system onboard the European Mars Express mission.

Former students scattered throughout the universities and research institutes of this country provide testimony to his influence on planetary geology.

“As I began my research career, Ron reminded me of the old adage: ‘A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.’ I am fortunate to have had Ron there walking beside me,” says Robert Pappalardo, senior research scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Lab. Greeley served as Pappalardo’s advisor. After receiving his doctorate from ASU in 1994, Pappalardo worked with Greeley for one year immediately after that as a postdoc. Since about 2002, the two had worked together on the science basis for Europa mission studies.

“Ron was a gentleman, a statesman, a mentor, a scholar,” says Pappalardo. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think, in some situation, ‘What would Ron Greeley do?’”

“Ron was a profoundly influential scientist whose imprint on planetary science will live on through his body of research and the many students he taught and mentored. He was a wonderful friend and colleague. We were fortunate to have known him and will miss him terribly,” said Kip Hodges, founding director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration. Greeley served a year as interim director of the school before Hodges joined ASU.

“Ron has been a very good friend of mine for many years, an incredible leader in planetary science, and the founder and guiding force for planetary science here at ASU. His leadership, friendship, and vision will be sorely missed,” says Christensen.

Greeley’s work lives on in proposed missions to Europa, a moon of Jupiter, and in the numerous students he mentored who today play pivotal roles in space science efforts.

Greeley is preceded in death by his daughter, Vanessa. He is survived by his wife Cindy and his son, Randall (Lidiette). He leaves behind three grandchildren.

On Monday, Nov. 7, there will be a visitation with Ron Greeley's family from 2:30-3:45 p.m. and a memorial service from 4-5 p.m. at the LDS Church, 2707 S. College Ave., in Tempe. The family is asking that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the "Ron Greeley Memorial Fund." Memorial donations may be made to the ASU Foundation for the Ronald Greeley Memorial Endowment, c/o the School of Earth and Space Exploration, PO Box 871404, ASU, Tempe, AZ 85287-1404. A Facebook page dedicated to Professor Ronald Greeley will also be updated with related information: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003109532235&sk=wall

Link to memorial page: http://europa.la.asu.edu/greeley/memorial/

 

(Nikki Cassis)
 

10/21/2011

 

ASU's Professor Ariel Anbar and graduate student Gregory Brennecka talk with Horizon host Ted Simmons about Earth’s largest mass extinction event, the end-Permian mass extinction.

The ASU-led team measured uranium isotopes in ancient carbonate rocks and found that a large, rapid shift in the chemistry of the world’s ancient oceans occurred around the extinction event.

Brennecka, working in Anbar’s research group, conducted the analysis of the samples. Anbar is a professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Achim Herrmann, a senior lecturer at Barrett, the Honors College at ASU, and Thomas Algeo of the University of Cincinnati, who collected the samples in China, helped guide the selection of samples and interpretation of data.

The team’s results were published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences Oct. 10 in a paper titled, “Rapid expansion of oceanic anoxia immediately before the end-Permian mass extinction.”
 

10/20/2011

Arizona State University is home to the world’s largest university-based meteorite collection. Consisting of specimens from more than 1,650 separate meteorite falls, today’s ASU Center for Meteorite Studies collection is significantly larger than the almost 700 specimens that seeded the cache 50 years ago. Through careful curation and management, as well as the addition of enviable analytical capabilities, the collection blossomed and the center evolved into an intellectual hub for research on meteorites and other planetary materials.

It was 1958, when Arizona State College became Arizona State University. Accompanying the name change was the goal of strengthening the research activities of the young university. Research coordinator George A. Boyd, tasked with bolstering the research program, played an important role in bringing meteorite research to ASU.

Two separate events helped lead ASU down the path of meteorite research. First, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in October 1957, putting space at the forefront of American consciousness. Second, Harvey H. Nininger, the famous meteorite hunter and self-taught meteoriticist, sold a portion of his collection to the British Natural History Museum in 1958. The sale marked a loss for the state, as the museum housing Nininger's extensive collection had been originally located near Barringer Meteorite Crater in northern Arizona and then, later, in Sedona, Arizona.

Boyd was familiar with Nininger's collection and recognized its importance to both Arizona and to ASU's pursuit of research in an up-and-coming discipline. Boyd, working with the chair of ASU’s chemistry department, Clyde A. Crowley, and ASU President Grady Gammage, solicited a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to purchase the remainder of Nininger's collection and bring it to ASU. To strengthen its proposal, ASU offered supporting funds from both the ASU Foundation and Herbert G. Fales, the vice president of International Nickel Company, who was familiar with Nininger through his own interest in meteorites.

The NSF recognized the importance of keeping the remainder of Nininger's collection in the United States and accepted ASU’s proposal on June 8, 1960.

“This was always in the plans and wishes of Nininger that we got the collection from him,” explains ASU Emeritus Professor Carleton B. Moore, founding director of the center.

Recruiting Moore to ASU was a well-researched, multi-step process. Boyd and George M. Bateman, the chair of the division of physical sciences, initiated the search for a director responsible for curating, managing and studying the collection. They consulted with Harrison S. Brown, a geochemistry professor at the California Institute of Technology, who was one of the few scientists in the nation actively studying meteorites, to find a worthy candidate. Brown was also familiar with Nininger and his collection; he had obtained samples for study from Nininger and had also visited Nininger's museums with his students. Brown recommended one of those students, Moore, for the directorship. Acting on behalf of ASU, Fales flew to Wesleyan University where Moore was teaching at the time, to recruit him. Moore agreed to take the position.

In spring 1961, the initial activities of the Center for Meteorite Studies, christened by new ASU President G. Homer Durham, commenced at ASU under the direction of Moore.

“When I came there were very few of us that knew anything about meteorites,” says Moore, who was 29 years old when he began his career at ASU. “At that time, it was mostly chemists who studied meteorites.”

In keeping with the fact that the most well-established scientists studying meteorites at the time were chemists, the care of the collection and promotion of its study was designated to ASU’s chemistry department.

“In the beginning, we just had a small room in the C-wing basement and everything was in steel cases; that’s where they put the meteorites before I came. And then chemistry abandoned a lecture room between the C wing and the B wing and we were given part of that for the meteorites,” says Moore. “We eventually moved again to where the vault is now.”

One of the NSF grant’s stipulations required that ASU would make specimens available to researchers around the world. Many worried that the new university would buckle under the demands, and the collection might be lost. To allay concerns, the NSF required the center to have an oversight advisory committee that consisted of representatives appointed by the National Academy of Sciences, NSF, Smithsonian, state of Arizona and American Museum of Natural History.

“Many in big schools weren't sure a place like ASU could take care of the specimens. They thought it was crazy sending this valuable meteorite collection here,” explains Moore.

Moore and his team successfully demonstrated that it was indeed possible to provide research materials to qualified users without degrading the collection. Since then the center has become a model for museums, which previously merely displayed meteorites, to follow suit and open their collections freely for research pursuits.

Peter Buseck, now a Regent’s Professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, was among the first ASU professors to actively put the center’s collection to use for scientific study. His diverse research portfolio has contained meteorite-related topics since soon after his arrival at ASU in 1963, and has involved dozens of students and postdoctoral researchers who contributed and continue to contribute significantly to meteorite science.

Bringing the Moon to ASU

Over the years, under the watchful eye of Moore, the collection grew exponentially through purchases, exchanges and donations.

The center’s own research reputation also flourished under Moore’s direction. Moore himself played a leading role in ASU’s efforts of building up the young university’s research portfolio, acquiring 35 research grants in materials science and geology from NASA, NSF and the U.S. Geological Survey from 1963-1987.

“I went to a meeting of meteorite curators in London in 1962 and there Howard Axon encouraged me to be interested in carbon,” says Moore. “This led me to be in the first groups to unambiguously identify amino acids in the Murchison and then Murray meteorites.”

Moore not only analyzed carbon in meteorites but in other types of extraterrestrial specimens as well.

The experience and success of the center's team in studying meteorites led to Moore’s inclusion on the team of scientists assigned to analyze Moon rocks returned from 1969 to 1972 by Apollo astronauts. At that time, the center was the only facility with proven analytical capabilities in place for measuring the low abundances of carbon and other volatile elements in rocks, so Moore flew to Houston to pick up the Apollo 11 samples and brought them back to ASU for analysis. These analyses, along with discussions with Jack Larimer, who was hired by the center with a joint appointment in ASU’s geology department, helped Moore and his team understand the sources of lunar carbon. The ASU team ultimately analyzed more than 200 lunar samples.

This work bolstered the reputation of the center as a research facility, and also set the stage for the study of other types of planetary materials by ASU researchers in the future.

“I hired Ron Greeley, who in turn hired Phil Christensen,” says Moore. “The center really did what it was supposed to – it started all this space research.”

Yielding major scientific contributions was not the center’s only focus. Since its inception, the center has focused on educational and public outreach activities. In 1967, the center opened a museum in the Bateman Physical Sciences C-wing.

“Chemistry expanded and that gave us meteorite space so Chuck Lewis and I made that little museum,” says Moore. The museum initiated by Moore is still in operation, but the majority of meteorites are catalogued and stored in a secure room, in boxes, on shelves and in drawers. “Outreach is not new; we’ve been doing it for a long, long time.”

The next generation

After more than 40 years of dedicated service, Moore retired from ASU in 2003 but to this day he actively participates in the center’s education and public outreach activities, and numerous public speaking engagements that reach hundreds of educators, students and members of the public each year.

“The number of specimens in the collection never went down,” says Moore. “It was part of the obligation: We should never lose anything, we should never waste anything.”

Former NASA administrator Laurie Leshin was a professor in the ASU department of geological sciences and an ASU alumna, when she was named the new director after Moore retired. In 2006, Meenakshi “Mini” Wadhwa, then curator of meteoritics at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, was named director of the center and professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Through careful management and grants and contributions, ASU’s meteorite collection has prospered and has lived up to all the hopes and aspirations expressed when it was established. Today, the collection is actively used for geological, planetary, and space science research at ASU and throughout the world. There’s every reason to predict that the center will continue to build upon it enviable reputation.

 

Caption: Carleton Moore served as the first director of ASU’s Center for Meteorite Studies. His research on lunar samples acquired from NASA’s Apollo missions in the 1970’s were particularly well-publicized and set the stage for significant work in planetary geology and astrophysics by subsequent ASU faculty. Photo by: University Archives Photographs, Arizona State University Libraries

 

(Nikki Cassis)

 

 

10/20/2011

Meteorites in Arizona State University’s Center for Meteorite Studies have names ranging from Abbott to Zmaitkiemis, representing samples collected from every part of the world, each associated with a unique anecdote or distinctive fact. As well as a treasury of useful and interesting rocks, the center contains a cache of fascinating stories that span decades and the globe.

Beginning with a purchase of almost 700 samples from amateur meteorite hunter H. H. Nininger in 1960, the collection has grown by way of purchases, exchanges, and gifts, and now contains in excess of 10,000 samples from more than 1,650 different meteorite falls.

The treasures stored in the meteorite vault delight many senses. Some samples are smooth, others are rough. They come in all shapes and sizes and possess interesting traits. The largest is a 550-kilogram sample called Bondoc that came from a meteorite that originally weighed close to one ton. Some meteorites are black or brown, others are reddish, and a few are green. Johnston, an achondrite meteorite, contains the mineral orthopyroxene that gives it a gorgeous light green hue. One meteorite even has a smell; Murchison, which fell in Australia in 1969, contains 4.5 billion year old sulfur-rich organic compounds that give the rock its distinctive odor.

Carleton Moore, the center’s founding director, chose to organize the samples in a unique way.

“At most places, like the Smithsonian, the meteorites are sorted alphabetically, but I arranged them by types,” says Moore. “If you come in and you want to see, say, achondrites, they’re all together, so you don’t have to run around to find them.”

Scientists sort meteorites into three main groups: stony, iron, and stony iron. The most common type is the stony meteorite, and the most common type of stony meteorite is called a chondrite.

“Among the chondrites [in our collection], one of the most amazing ones is from Arizona, the Holbrook meteorite, which fell in 1912, east of Holbrook, Arizona,” says Moore.

Because somebody saw the Holbrook meteorite fall to earth rather than just finding them without witnessing the shower, the Holbrook samples are classified as a fall, not a find. Falls produce more pristine samples than finds, which makes them more valuable for research.

The Holbrook meteorite is just one member of an extensive collection of Arizona meteorites. Another is Canyon Diablo, the nickel-iron meteorite responsible for forming Meteor Crater.

Most meteorites found on Earth come from the asteroid belt, but some from the Moon and Mars exist as well. These rare samples constitute a small but important part of the center’s collection.

ASU’s first meteorite from Mars was the Nakhla meteorite, a sample from ASU’s initial acquisition. The center was unaware of its unique origin until research in the 1980s showed that gases trapped in certain rare meteorites (similar to Nakhla) matched those in Mars’ atmosphere, and the CMS could boast its first meteorite from Mars. Other martian meteorites in the center’s collection include pieces of the historical falls of Shergotty, a 5 kilogram (11 pound) sample that fell in Sherghati, India, in 1865, and Zagami, a 18 kilogram (40 pound) sample that fell in the Katsina province of Nigeria in 1962.

One of the center’s most historically important meteorites is L’Aigle, a chondrite which fell in France in 1803. This shower of thousands of stones from the sky finally convinced people that meteorites fall from space. France was also where Ensisheim was found, another chondrite meteorite that fell in 1492 and that represents the second oldest meteorite recovered from a witnessed and recorded fall.

Moore’s favorite meteorite is called Kediri and, although the sample is neither from the Moon nor Mars, it does have a special connection to ASU and to Moore.

In 1972, a Dutch scientist from the University of Nijmegen, to whom Moore had lent meteorite samples in the past, contacted Moore about P. J. Maureau, a Dutch physician who was trying to find a home for a meteorite sample in his possession. Moore expressed interest, and began corresponding directly with Dr. Maureau.

Through a series of letters, Maureau related the meteorite’s story to Moore. In 1940, a friend of Maureau’s witnessed a meteorite fall while on his rubber plantation in Java, Indonesia, and collected about 70 pieces from the shower. He kept the largest, which he later gave to Maureau as a gift when he saw his friend’s interest.

The meteorite’s sale took more than a year, as the Dutch government learned about the sample and wanted to keep a large portion of it in a national museum. Thanks to Maureau’s persistence, the sample finally came to the CMS in 1973.

Maurea’s health was deteriorating when he first contacted Moore, and he died of stomach cancer two years later. When the sale was finally completed, Moore received letters from Maureau’s wife and son that expressed how much the successful transfer of the meteorite meant to Maureau.

“He loved this rock so much, he wanted it to go to a nice home,” says Moore. “And he identified us, ASU, as the nice home.”

Now home to a vast array of meteorites, the center lends its samples to scientists throughout the world, playing a pivotal role in preserving meteorites for current and future study. Specimens are carefully stored in archival quality materials and particularly delicate meteorites are housed in climate-controlled storage to maintain ideal conditions so they are preserved for future generations.

“Every year, chemists and geologists and physicists come up with new techniques to study meteorites, and we have to make sure that some of these meteorites are around for 500 or more years,” says Moore. “This is a tremendous obligation for ASU. Down the road, someone might want to see that meteorite.”

The center is constantly growing its collection in support of its research and education mission. Laurence Garvie, the center’s collection manager, is actively involved in the classification of newly discovered meteorites, portions of which are then archived in the center’s collection. Other new specimens are acquired through purchases as well as exchanges with other institutions, museums and meteorite collectors. Among the more important recent acquisitions are some rare meteorites such as Isheyevo, El Gouanem, and Red Canyon Lake.

“Each one of our meteorites has a story to tell,” says Meenakshi Wadhwa, the center’s current director. “There are certainly very interesting stories about how they were found and how they eventually made their way to our collection. But there are also more ancient stories that these meteorites tell us about the beginnings of our solar system and planets that are only revealed through careful analyses in laboratories like those at ASU.”

 

Caption: This rare meteorite, named Losttown, possesses a well developed Widmanstätten pattern. It is one of the many unique treasures housed in the ASU Center for Meteorite Studies collection. Photo by: Laurence Garvie/Arizona State University

Link to meteorite photo gallery: http://asunews.asu.edu/20111021_gallery_meteoritecollection

(Victoria Miluch)