Exploring a desert portal to other worlds

phys.org | 8/25/1963 | Staff
Mireille (Posted by) Level 3
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Ali Bramson clutched her neon pink umbrella as she trekked across the frozen lava that spilled from Amboy Crater in California's Mojave Desert. She and her fellow University of Arizona graduate students were tasked with identifying the boundaries of different eruptions of the extinct volcano, then unfurling their bright umbrellas to mark the spot. From an airplane overhead, her professor and another student photographed the sites to record the findings.

"We compared where we had mapped the different lava flows from the ground to where we had mapped the lava flows based on images taken from above by airplanes and satellites," said Bramson, who is now a postdoctoral research fellow at the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, or LPL. "It was a great way to learn about how looking at geological features from different perspectives and spatial scales affects your interpretation."

Bramson - History - LPL - Graduate - Students

Bramson was one of the latest in a long history of LPL graduate students to take a planetary geology field trip to learn how Earth's geological formations can serve as analogs to formations on the moon, Mars and beyond.

The tradition began more than 50 years ago—before Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin left their bootprints in the moon's powdery soil—when UA researchers led by Gerard Kuiper worked with NASA to map and understand the moon's surface from a geological perspective.

Kuiper - Graduate - Students - Field - Geology

To do so, Kuiper's graduate students studied field geology, which spurred the formation of the UA Department of Planetary Science and the field trips within it.

"The smallest features we could photograph from Earth were no more than a half-mile across, so the biggest problem was to understand the human-scale structure of the lunar surface," said William Hartmann, one of Kuiper's graduate students who helped create the Rectified Lunar Atlas. Hartmann later co-founded the Planetary Science Institute, or PSI, in Tucson. "To study...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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