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IGA Lecture on 14th April 2021 by Jennifer Scully (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

April 147:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Title: “There and Back Again: A Geologist’s Tale of Planetary Exploration”

Abstract: In this talk, I will give an overview of the NASA missions I have taken part in, focusing on the planetary geology investigations that derive from the mission data. I will begin with the Dawn mission, which used an ion propulsion–driven spacecraft to orbit and explore two of the largest objects in the asteroid belt, Vesta and Ceres. Vesta is a largely dry body with a basaltic crust, which has been modified over millions of years by meteorite impacts and fracturing/faulting. Scientific investigations of Vesta are greatly aided by the presence of samples of Vesta that have fallen to the Earth as meteorites. Ceres is the only dwarf planet in the inner solar system and is the largest object in the asteroid belt. There is a relatively large amount of water ice just underneath Ceres’ surface; it is likely that a subsurface ocean once existed within Ceres. Salt-rich pockets of the relict subsurface ocean are likely present in the subsurface today and drive the formation of spectacularly bright salt formations and an isolated mountain. I will then discuss Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, which contains a present-day, extensive subsurface ocean of great interest to the astrobiological community. I am currently working on the Europa Clipper mission, which will, in the near future, investigate Europa via multiple flybys. I will finish by talking about mission concepts I have participated in to explore a variety of planetary bodies via landing and/or sample return. 

Biography: Dr Jennifer Scully is a scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, which is funded by NASA and managed by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). She graduated with a B.A. in Science (Geology) from Trinity College Dublin in 2010, after enjoying her time in the Museum Building and on field trips around Ireland, Scotland and Spain. She then moved to the U.S. to pursue a Ph.D. in geology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), which focused on planetary geology. During her time at UCLA, Jennifer worked on NASA’s Dawn mission, which at the time was exploring the asteroid Vesta. After graduating from UCLA in 2015, Jennifer became a Caltech postdoctoral scholar based at JPL and continued her work on the Dawn mission, which had then moved on to orbiting and studying dwarf planet Ceres. Since becoming a JPL scientist in 2017, Jennifer has become involved with the Clipper mission to Jupiter’s icy moon/ocean world Europa. She has also worked on a variety of mission concepts for the exploration of Europa, Ceres, comets and asteroids by landers and sample return. 

Date and Time: Wednesday, 14 April 2021, between 19:00 and 20:00 via Zoom.
To Register: send an e-mail to irishgeologicalassociation@gmail.com BEFORE the 14th April 2021 at 1pm.

A Zoom link will be sent on the day to those who have registered.


April 14
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Event Category: