Research, Travel, and LAVA!

October 17, 2017

I sometimes wonder if I am stretching myself too thin, reading books covering different planetary science fields or finding new opportunities to learn more about planetary science and mission planning. There is nothing wrong with expanding ones mind purely for interest, only when it completely distracts you from your research does it become a problem. Luckily, this has not occurred. I mean, I still like to learn about new fields but I always make sure it does not take me away from my research or writing. I am going off on a tangent from the topic of this blog, which is to talk about the experience I have gained both in the field and in computer labs, networking with members of ESA, and obtaining the XRF data from my 2017 field season.


COTM Research


Let us begin with the research. A few of you know, I have begun the writing stage of my thesis, currently focusing on the introduction, literature review, methodology, and results. It has been a slow start as I find starting to write something is the hardest part. On top of writing, I have added more papers to my reading list which I believe to be relevant to my research background, interpretations, and future work questions. Some of the papers were suggested by the NASA members I worked with in the field, some of their research compliments mine and vice versa. During the following weeks to come, I will be writing more frequently, trying to answer some of the questions I had after leaving the field this and the previous year, find more questions in the data, and think how the results can be applied to lunar basalt and impact melt flow analogous research. Very recently, the XRF data of my 2017 samples was delivered to me and I have begun adding them to my 2016 data. I sent my samples for whole-rock XRF analysis at ALS in Sudbury Ontario (special thanks to them for powdering, analyzing, and returning my samples in under a month). I have already noticed some oddities in the data, mainly in Serrate flow (Graph and table below). I revisited locations where lava flow compositions were changing in the same flow. At first I thought this could be a contamination error from the laboratory or the sample belonged to a different lava flow. The former is the most plausible as field observations, photos, and aerial maps disregard it sample belonging to a different lava flow. After revisiting sample locations from the previous field season, I discovered the geochemical heterogeneity in Devil's Orchard and Serrate Flow is found in samples within close proximity. I will be looking into this geochemical heterogenity in more detail and discussing it with my supervisor's Dr Catherine Neish and Dr Gordon Osinski. I am expecting to pick up my thin sections by the early November, allowing me to look at them before I fly home for the Christmas holiday.











MgO vs SiO2 graph containing 2016 and 2017 XRF data. Notice the Serrate Flow data point with the Big Crater, Blue Dragon, and North Crater.


Sudbury Impact Cratering Short Course



Between the 23rd of September and the 10th of October, I was in three different countries for three different purposes. First, Sudbury Ontario for the Impact Cratering Processes field and short course run by Dr Gordon Osinski, in collaboration with the Center for Lunar Science and Exploration, and the Lunar and Planetary Institute. The course consisted of Western University graduate students, USA university graduate students, and graduate students from Belgium. For any impact cratering enthusiasts or graduate students wanting to learn more about impact cratering processes and loves field work I highly recommend this course! The objective of this course was to understand the stages in impact cratering, processes occurring during these stages, hydrothermal systems associated with impact cratering, and the emplacement of the famous Sudbury breccia. I will not spoil the lecture content or the sites visited around Sudbury, instead I will briefly tell you about the field work my team and I conducted for two and a half days. We hiked around Laurentian Lake, located south of Laurentian University campus in search for Sudbury breccia. We had to note the clast abundance, shape, alignment, and lithology, the amount of breccia matrix, flow features, and field evidence which determine how it formed in the area. What we first believed to be a casual walk taking notes on Sudbury Breccia, turned into a 17km hike around the lake just to find well-exposed outcrops. The weathering, soot, and vegetation cover limited our observations. Most of the time it was difficult to distinguish the breccia matrix from the mafic clasts. The image below shows the best exposure we could find in the field. The hike was not in vain, we managed to find one location with ~300 m of exposed polymict Sudbury Breccia, and we all got a lot of exercise and great views of the lake.

 The image above is a Sudbury breccia outcrop located SW of Laurentian Lake (46°26'34.27"N 80°58'16.94"W). 



ESA Rosetta Workshop


Once the impact cratering short course concluded, I was dropped off in Toronto to catch a flight the following day to Luxembourg via Munich. I flew to Luxembourg to catch a train to Poix St-Hubert in Belgium to attend the European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta Science Operations Scheduling Legacy Workshop. The workshop lasted 4 days and it was one of the most inspirational and exciting moments of my academic life. I got to learn how the Rosetta mission was planned accordingly, how science operations were scheduled based off comet (67P) orbit, and explained by members of the mission the details about the mission planning experience! I also got to learn briefly how to use the software MAPPS, the software which helped track the spacecraft, lander descent, and viewpoint of the instruments on board. The workshop consisted of 22 students including myself, all M.Sc and PhD students. These students came from across Europe: Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy, UK, Ireland, Sweden, and Austria. We shared our experiences and programs (which for me was interesting because a majority of the students were either engineers or astrophysicists), and found out what our goals are during and after obtaining our degrees. We are still in touch to this day, although we all knew it will be difficult to remain in contact using only whatsapp. I will be presenting my experience of the workshop on the 17th of November at the CPSX forum at Western University. I will share what I learned (at least what I am aloud too), how missions are planned at ESA, and encouraging other European and Canadian students to attend these workshops. 


Myself, two PhD students from Germany (right) and Sweden (center), a Young Graduate Trainee (left), and Raymond Hoofs Science Operations Engineer at ESAC.


Syracuse - Lava Experiments


The final destination of my travels is Syracuse, where myself, Dr Catherine Neish, and her husband visited a colleague at Syracuse University. The purpose of the visit was to observe a large smelter melting rock and glass, and pouring them out as lava onto steel sheets and crucibles. I got to help out a NASA collaborator with her experiments by folding a slab of lava, picking up and placing it on a steel sheet. This was repeated until three lava slabs were placed on top of one another with two thermal probe placed in between them. You can tell from the second image below that I am completely relaxed and not worried of dropping the lava near my shoes...

I hope to see these experiments again. Even if is just to observe, it was something spectacular!




I think this is the end, I will be updating everyone in the next couple of weeks. I hope to have made a large amount of progress on my thesis and research project by the time I write the next blog!

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